Tony Parker and the Spurs put on a clinic against the Trail Blazers

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The San Antonio Spurs were so fundamentally sound Tuesday, when they weren’t, they got a technical foul .

Manu Ginobili, frustrated with a first-quarter travelling call, slammed down the ball. He tried to catch it on the bounce, but it slid through his hands, and a whistle blew. Had the ball not risen so high, Ginobili probably would have avoided the technical.

Otherwise, the Spurs were meticulously thorough in a 116-92 dismantling of the Portland Trail Blazers. Tony Parker led San Antonio with 33 points and nine assists, and he was one of six Spurs to score double digits in Game 1 of their second-round series.

This one was never in doubt. San Antonio steadily built an 8-0 lead and never looked back. The Spurs led by 20 the entire second half.

After posting a solid B+ in Intro to Playoffs, the Trail Blazers weren’t ready for the advanced course. They can try cramming before Game 2, but two days doesn’t leave much time to catch the San Antonio’s years of studying.

Teams that have opened a best-of-seven with such large margin of victory have won 41 of 45 series.

All game, Gregg Popovich was a step ahead, making adjustments to problems that hadn’t yet manifested, even though his team led. The Spurs repeatedly created and exploited mismatches.

Aron Baynes, who barely played in the first round against the Mavericks, came off the bench to post 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds in 15 minutes. After struggling against Dallas, Marco Belinelli had a chance to get his confidence back, and he scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting. And despite often forgoing offensive rebounds to get back defensively during the regular season, the Spurs crashed the glass early before relenting as their lead swelled.

Only once San Antonio got up big did LaMarcus Aldridge (32 points on 12-of-25 shooting with 14 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (17 points on 6-of-15 shooting) get going. Those two must play better for Portland to have a chance. Tiago Splitter bothered Aldridge early, and Lillard lacked lift offensively after trying to defend Parker pick-and-rolls.

Not that the Trail Blazers’ stars had much help. Their teammates shot just 13-of-42 (31 percent).

No matter how many timeouts Terry Stotts called, he could never find a sustainable counter to San Antonio’s chess moves. The Portland coach kept trying, though, searching for anything to build on for Game 2.

Aldridge (41 minutes), Lillard (37 minutes) and Nicolas Batum (36 minutes) played more than any Spur.

Meanwhile, Tim Duncan played just 24 minutes and Manu Ginobili 18.

The Spurs are coming at the Trail Blazers in waves, and Portland can’t relax now. Advancing to the second round for the first time in 14 years is nice, but this isn’t just a day at the beach.

Class is in session.

LeBron James on Lakers clinching No. 1 seed: ‘They said I couldn’t do it’

Lakers star LeBron James
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The Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

LeBron James, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

“They said I couldn’t do it.”

“I’ll enjoy this one,” James said, nodding as he grinned. “They said I can’t do it.”

The Lakers entered the season fifth in the West in over-under wins (behind the Rockets, Clippers, Jazz and Nuggets).

But nobody credible thought the Lakers couldn’t get the No. 1 seed. With LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers obviously had that type of upside. Their championship odds were far more favorable. The main doubts stemmed from how seriously LeBron would take the regular season.

That said, in the age of social media, players hear both more praise and more criticism than ever before. LeBron surely heard from haters who ruled him out. Crowning himself the Washed King, LeBron probably internalized that fringe opinion.

Many players find slights to use as motivation. It worked for Michael Jordan. It works for LeBron.

But it does sound silly when an exalted player like LeBron talks this way.

Report: Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because team didn’t spend enough

Pacers owner Herb Simon and executives Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird, and Kevin Pritchard
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Paul George said he left the Pacers because they weren’t willing to spend enough.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president in 2017, citing a desire to do more things outside basketball. Yet, he also reportedly had another reason.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.

Pacers owner Herb Simon has a certain way of doing things. Indiana hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2006, the first year the tax line was set before the season.

Despite that, the Pacers have been pretty good. They’ve qualified for the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons, peaking with appearances in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals.

Still, Indiana has lost in the first round four straight years. Another first-round loss appears the most likely outcome for this season.

That’s not exactly satisfying for players who want to win championships. Spending big isn’t absolutely necessary to compete on the highest levels. But it helps.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo is approaching 2021 unrestricted free agency. He’s a competitor who’ll evaluate, among other things, whether his current franchise matches his ambitions.

It’s easy to spend someone else’s money. Simon can decide his own limits. But there are consequences of his spending restraint – especially as perception grows about his relative thriftiness.

J.J. Redick describes thought behind meme: ‘I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing’

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J.J. Redick has made the playoffs all 13 of his previous NBA seasons.

The Pelicans have put that streak in jeopardy.

New Orleans lost its first two games in the bubble, a nail-biter against the Jazz and a rout against the Clippers. During that loss to L.A., cameras captured Redick – on the floor exercising his back while out of the game – with a distant stare that became an instant meme.

Redick on ESPN Daily:

I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing, and I think my face summed up that first half pretty well.

There’s so many circumstances you could apply the emotions that I was going through in that moment.

Redick is right: That meme fits many occasions, which gives it staying power.

However, it has plenty of competition. Though the feelings displayed aren’t the exact same, Redick didn’t even have the best reaction inside the bubble by an exasperated NBA player. That belongs to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic:

At least Redick got reason to perk up. The Pelicans beat the Grizzlies yesterday to gain ground in the playoff race.

Darren Collison says talk of him playing for Lakers was “overhyped”

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Darren Collison shocked the NBA last summer when he walked away from the game at age 32 — and a likely contract in the four-year, $70+ million range — and retired. His reasons were legitimate, he wanted to focus on his religion — “While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith,” Collison said at the time — but the league has seen a lot of players say they were walking away for good reasons only to come running back.

The rumors about a Collison return started just after January 1 and spun out of control in Los Angeles when he sat with Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss at a game.

Collison stayed retired, and told the “Minute til 6” podcast it wasn’t even close. He was never coming back.

“To keep it 100, they overhyped the whole thing. Like, I wasn’t even thinking about coming back.”

That game he went to? He just came to watch his friend Russell Westbrook.

“I just wanted to come watch the game as a fan.”

Collison also is smart enough to know how him sitting with Buss would be perceived.

Collison was wanted. The Lakers run LeBron James at the point but could have used the veteran Collison in the role Rajon Rondo filled as a secondary playmaker (Rondo is currently out with a thumb injury). Collison was rumored to the Clippers as well, and Doc Rivers can always find a way to use more guard depth.

Collison, however, seems at peace with his decision. If he wanted to return, he would have done it last summer for 10 figures a season, not for the minimum in January.