Trail Blazers stave off elimination behind spirited reserves Will Barton and Thomas Robinson

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Thomas Robinson dunked on a pinpoint pass from Tony Parker, and Will Barton made a 3-pointer after the ball bounced high off the rim twice and then hit the backboard.

Down 3-0, the Portland Trail Blazers will take ‘em any way they can get ‘em.

Robinson’s dunk capped a 9-0 third-quarter run that broke open Game 4 Monday, and Barton’s 3-pointer in the final minute put the cherry on top of Portland’s 103-92 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Even if the Trail Blazers, still trailing 3-1, did nothing but force the series back to San Antonio for a Game 5 at 9:30 ET Wednesday, they at least gave their fans one more reason to cheer.

Most teams down 3-0 get swept, and the Trail Blazers appeared particularly meek. They trailed by 26, 19 and 20 at halftime in Games 1-3, and their second-half performances while down big hardly showed much reason for hope.

But not only did the Trail Blazers lead by two at halftime Monday, they rallied in the third quarter to increase their lead. Midway through the period, Nicolas Batum (14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists) converted a four-point play and then made a 3-pointer on the next possession. On the following possession, Parker tried to save a ball from going out of bounds and threw it right under the basket to Robinson, who dunked.

Gregg Popovich encouraged the ensuing standing ovation by not calling timeout, keeping the party going. His priority clearly shifted to Game 5 as he rested his starters late, and maybe the lesson of playing through a run will help going forward, too.

But Sunday night – probably for the last time this postseason – was all Portland.

Damian Lillard’s scoring continues to rise in the series – 17, 19, 21 and now 25 points – and LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points on 16 shots) also had a solid game. The real sparks, though, were Barton (17 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Robinson (nine points and five rebounds) off the bench.

With Mo Williams out injured, the NBA’s lowest-scoring bench was missing its top scorer. Yet, Barton and Robinson alone matched the scoring of San Antonio’s top two scorers – Parker (14) and Tim Duncan/Boris Diaw (12 points each).

The Spurs went cold from beyond the arc, shooting just 3-for-18. Danny Green (1-for-7 on 3-pointers) was particularly bad.

Green was also the only San Antonio starter to close the game, and he scored seven of his nine points in the final few minutes of garbage time. Popovich is clearly still pushing buttons.

What they activate might not be seen until Game 5, when the Spurs can close this series once and for all.

DeMarcus Cousins has dropped a ton of weight this offseason already (PHOTO)

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New Orleans Pelicans DeMarcus Cousins has been known to carry a bit of weight on his frame. He is currently listed at 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds.

It appears that last bit has significantly changed over the off-season.

Cousins has reportedly dropped quite a bit of weight during his off-season regimen, eating right and even hiring the personal trainer who made Julius Randle look so good in just a short amount of time for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Speaking to WDSU, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry Said cousins was primed to take a new role for the pelicans next season, taking on a bit of a ball handler role as a point center. That should be easily done now that cousins has gained a little bit of mobility by shedding some weight.

Via WDSU:

When I saw DeMarcus, his body looked great. He invited us to his house for lunch; he’s eating really healthy — he’s got a chef that he’s hired. I was really, really excited about what he’s taken from the standpoint of trying to get himself ready for the season and obviously he feels like this is a very important season for him.

Looking at Cousins’ Instagram, you can clearly see the results of his eating and training regimen. He looks damn near svelte.

The newly-formed Pelicans had a disappointing end to the season, but with more time together they will certainly be one of the teams to watch in the Western Conference.

Rumor: Cavaliers, Pacers, and Nuggets discussed 3-way deal with Paul George, Kevin Love

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Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Via Twitter:

There is a lot to think about here given the potential for this trade. The first is how the Cavaliers would be able to complete a deal without a general manager in place. Owner Dan Gilbert fired David Griffin just last week. The Cavaliers are still talking to former NBA player Chauncey Billups about a chance to run the front office, but nothing has been decided just yet.

As good as George is, with the way that Kevin Love played in the 2017 NBA playoffs, it’s a wonder that the Cavaliers would want to let him go. The Golden State Warriors ate up Tristan Thompson in several of their Finals games, and Love was often the best player outside of LeBron on the floor for Cleveland.

Rumors also have George as being adamant that he is a one year rental only. His preferred landing place is still Los Angeles with the Lakers.

How a one year rental would work in exchange for one of Cleveland’s best players is sort of confusing. Even if the Cavaliers landed George and Faried, they would need to add yet another piece in order to get over the hump as the Eastern Conference strengthens and as they try to face off against the Warriors yet again.

This NBA off-season has been particularly crazy, and I don’t expected to calm down anytime soon.

Watch Isiah Thomas work out Lakers No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball (VIDEO)

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Lonzo Ball Is finally a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Magic Johnson & Co. took him with the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday.

Despite a few issues with his draft workouts with the Lakers, Ball was still the top choice for Los Angeles when they came to select after Markelle Fultz was off the board. The Lakers have already given Ball more control of the team after trading D'Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets last week.

Before the draft, Ball took some time out to work in his back yard and on his home court with NBA legend Isiah Thomas.

Check out the interaction between the two and see where Ball grew up learning to shoot his oddly-formed but highly-accurate jumper.

Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki to Harrison Barnes: “You need major skill to get to 20 years”

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Harrison Barnes is set to be a foundational piece for the Dallas Mavericks for years to come. He is trying to learn all he can from one of the greatest Mavericks of all time in Dirk Nowitzki.

So what has Barnes learned under Nowitzki’s tutelage?

Well, for one thing, he’s going to need to learn an elite-level skill if he wants to lead when Nowitzki is gone.

Speaking with the Dallas News, Barnes said that Nowitzki sarcastic but tough when it comes to gym habits and player development.

Via Dallas News:

“Honestly, I’ve just been trying to work as hard as I can and spend as much time as I can with him in the gym. I remember one day at practice we’re standing on the sidelines on the gym and said, ‘Oh man, Dirk, you’re about to get to 20 years. That’s impressive. Do you think I can get to 20 years?’ He’s like, ‘No way man. You need major skill to get to 20 years.’ So that’s kind of the nature of our relationship. I just want to try to become the best basketball player that I can and follow the mold that he’s set here in Dallas for years and years of just constantly getting better every single year.”

Knowing Dirk’s personality, there is a fair bit of tongue-in-cheek happening here but he’s not entirely wrong.Barnes was a jack of all trades for the Golden State Warriors before he signed his contract with the Mavericks. Nowitzki is one of the greatest scores in NBA history, and he obviously has more than one major skill under his belt.

Even still, it’s good advice for Barnes moving forward.