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.

J.R. Smith’s Game 1 Finals jersey up for auction

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It was the moment that defined the 2018 NBA Finals.

The score was tied with 4.7 seconds left when George Hill missed his second of two free throws, but J.R. Smith made an impressive play to get the offensive rebound — then tried to dribble out the clock like the Cavaliers were ahead.

Now, you can own Smith’s Game 1 jersey — the one he was wearing when he made a play so thoughtless LeBron James broke his own hand punching a whiteboard in frustration over it. It’s available on the NBA auction site. The bidding goes on for three more days, until June 21.

As of Monday morning, the current bid is $3000.

A Warriors’ fan is going to buy this thing, not a Cavaliers fan. They are still trying to repress this memory.

Kevin Durant’s dad wrote him a nice letter for Father’s Day

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Kevin Durant and his father didn’t have the best relationship growing up. Wayne Pratt, father of the Golden State Warriors star, left Durant and his family when the sharpshooting Finals MVP was just one year old.

Pratt was in and out of Durant’s life, and eventually they reconciled. Now, Pratt is important part of Durant’s career and business decisions.

As several players decided to celebrate their fathers and the national day of recognition on social media, it was actually Pratt who decided to write a letter to his son. In a post on The Undefeated, Pratt spoke about how he was grateful to have Durant as a son and to have reconciled with him.

Via The Undefeated:

I regret missing out on your first day of school, your first haircut, holidays and the first day you picked up a basketball. But I thank God daily for creating the opportunity for us to reconnect. I’m so thankful for you opening your heart at such a tender time. Every parent-child relationship has its ups and downs and we are no exception. I feel fortunate that we have learned how to successfully navigate life’s mistakes. Thank you for forgiving me and allowing us to have the great relationship we have today.

Go back and read the full letter, it’s worth it. Seeing the vulnerability between two grown men living a real, complicated, and adult situation like this is humanizing. Plus, it appears to have had a positive ending for Durant and his pops.

Hope all you dads out there had a good one on Sunday.

Shaq doesn’t want LeBron James to chase rings to close his career

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Shaquille O’Neal was a dominant NBA center, playing with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami Heat.

He was also a ring chaser.

At the end of his career, O’Neal decided to switch between teams, including the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics. It was an open and futile effort to beat his rival and former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant in number of championships won.

After they retired, O’Neal finished with four championships to Bryant’s five.

Now, as Cavaliers star LeBron James starts to wrap up his own career, Shaq says that James should not follow in his footsteps. Specifically, O’Neal said that he thinks LeBron’s story has already been written, and that he should not try to chase rings elsewhere.

Via ESPN:

“Somebody told me a long time ago — they said your book is already set [before the later stages of your career]. You can add index pages toward the end, but your book is already set. So LeBron’s book is already set,” O’Neal said. “He done already passed up legends; he done already made his mark — he has three rings

I think I tend to agree with O’Neal on this point. Specifically, because the only thing that LeBron could do to boost his resume would be to win multiple championships, consecutively, to close his career. He would need to surpass Michael Jordan at six rings, and approach Bill Russell with 11.

I don’t particularly think that LeBron is trying to ring chase. He’s just trying to get with one good team to close his career (or the Lakers). I don’t think we will ever see LeBron skip around from team to team the way that O’Neal did in the twilight of his playing career.

We’re launching the PBT Mailbag, so what questions do you want answered?

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The 2017-18 NBA season is over, and the Golden State Warriors are champions once again. What that means the offseason is here, and for many fans that is the best time of the year. The summer in the NBA the past few years has given us some incredible stories. For many, this past postseason was rather boring, and the outcome was all but decided.

And so it is time to dig into our postseason favorites, starting with the 2018 NBA Draft. We here at Pro Basketball Talk would like to announce the start of our weekly mail bag, which will run each week on Wednesday mornings.

The first of mailbag will run this Wednesday, the day before the draft. Questions can be submitted via Twitter or by sending us an email directly at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

The draft is obviously the big focus for many fans as we approach this next week, and much about the situation for many teams heading up into the event in Brooklyn is murky. If you have a burning question about the draft, now is the time to ask it.

Of course, you are encouraged to ask any kind of question you want to hear about from the Pro Basketball Talk crew such as:

  • Where is LeBron going?
  • Is a hotdog a sandwich?
  • Has Nick Young put his shirt back on yet?
  • Will Jordan Bell run out of Hennessy ever again?
  • Where will Kawhi Leonard play next season?

All of these questions are fair game, and more.

We are looking forward to the kind of queries you need answered on a weekly basis as we roll through the summer in anticipation for the start of the 2018-19 NBA season.