LaMarcus Aldridge, Will Barton

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.

Report: Rockets owner would consider Kenny “the Jet” Smith as head coach

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12:  Basketball player Kenny Smith speaks onstage as Fall Out Boy takes the stage at American Express All-Star Live at Hammerstein Ballroom broadcast live on TNT to tip-off NBA All-Star 2015 on February 12, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for American Express)
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Kenny “The Jet” Smith is the next Steve Kerr?

I’m with you, I don’t see that either. But apparently in the Houston Rockets’ broad search for a new coach — we know it will not be J.B. Bickerstaff — owner Leslie Alexander would consider Smith, a member of the Rockets’ championship teams in the 1990s. From Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources tell ESPN.com that TNT’s Kenny Smith, who like (Sam) Cassell is a former Rockets player, could also land an interview. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander remains close to many players from the team’s highly successful Clutch City era, which delivered two championships, and holds them in high esteem.

As seen in the video above, Charles Barkley asked Smith about it on Inside the NBA Wednesday and Smith tap danced around the question, saying “anything basketball is me.”

The Rockets need a defensive-minded coach and someone who can help guide and build a good locker room culture, two things that held the Rockets back this season. Someone who can get the respect of James Harden and get him to do things such as show up to training camp in shape.

That’s what makes Jeff Van Gundy an interesting fit, same with Frank Vogel if he is let go by the Indiana Pacers as it more and more seems like he will be. Both of them have experience doing what the Rockets need. Can The Jet coach? Who knows. But with Harden in his prime and some other quality role players on the roster (Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Clint Capella, and the list goes on) why gamble on the unknown?

Report: Bulls telling teams they plan on keeping Jimmy Butler

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 14:  Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls warms up prior to action against the Toronto Raptors in an NBA game at the Air Canada Centre on March 14, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 109-107. NOTE TO USER: user expressly acknowledges and agrees by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Bulls are trying to find their identity. They used to be a defensive team, but they went and got an offensive coach in Fred Hoiberg and by the end of the season had slid badly on that end of the floor. They are no longer Derrick Rose‘s team, but they didn’t have the personnel to run Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls need to figure out who they are and what players on the roster should be part of that team moving forward.

Expect Jimmy Butler to be part of that future. He’s the best player on the team, but he rubs some teammates the wrong way, and there have been rumors the Bulls would listen to trade offers.

The Bulls are telling teams they plan to hold on to him, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.

And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.

“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.

What is the hardest part of assembling a potential NBA title contender? Finding the elite, cornerstone player you need who can lead your team at both ends of the floor. The Chicago Bulls have that in Butler, he’s locked up under contract until at least the summer of 2019 on a good contract (a max before the TV deal money kicked in), why would they trade him?

Stranger things have happened, especially with the Bulls, but unless they want to tear it all down and rebuild — and they don’t — getting rid of Butler doesn’t make sense.

The better question is who will be around Butler come next fall.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 =

Watch all 25 threes from Cleveland in Game 2 win

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Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.

Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.

In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.

Cavaliers threes shotchart

Report: Rockets to interview Mike D’Antoni, Frank Vogel for coaching vacancy

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers gestures during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on February 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 126-122.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.

The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.

Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.