Game 5 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers @ San Antonio Spurs

Steve Dykes

The Spurs look to save their energy for the conference finals and close out the Blazers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semis.

Portland Trail Blazers @ San Antonio Spurs

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
May 14, 2014, 8:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

The Spurs look to trade in their brooms and Swiffer-like products for top hats, monocles and three-piece suits as they go for the "Gentleman's Sweep" of the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 tonight. Monday's game reminded all of us that San Antonio was playing a team that was worthy of a second round series in the Western Conference, not one of the Eastern tomato cans. The game also reminded us that Spurs occasionally sleepwalk through a playoff game.

San Antonio shot a measly 16.7% from behind the arc (3-for-18) and 57.9% from the free-throw line in Game 4. They also got outrebounded and out-assisted by the Blazers. It simply wasn't the efficient, high intensity display of efficiency and execution that we had seen in the first three games.  It was a dominant display that overwhelmed Portland, seemingly leaving them for dead. But on Tuesday, the Spurs played like they had four lives in their back pocket to use, and Portland played like they were on their last one.

I don't want to make too much of the Game 4 loss, though, because every team in a best-of-seven series is going to have one of those days. In the West, the playoffs have been as competitive editions as I can ever remember, and both San Antonio and Portland are proving they deserve to be among the playoff survivors. The Blazers are a very good team, and their performance on Monday only validated the magnificent, and ultimately unsustainable, level of play of the Spurs in the first three games of the series.

The intriguing enigma of tonight's Game 5 matchup is how the Spurs will end this series. If San Antonio is able to conclude it with a win tonight, then the Spurs will have ended the series on their terms and gained an extra few days of rest  before the Conference Finals. Manu Ginobili mentioned (a few times) in his regular post in La Nacion that he was beaten and exhausted coming out of the Dallas series, only to start the Blazers series a couple days later [h/t J. Gomez]. While Manu only mentioned his own health in the piece, he couldn't have been the only one on the team wishing they had an extra day or two of rest before starting the next round. This was evident in the team's legs and eyes in Game 4 as the younger Damian Lillard and Will Barton found their comfort level as the game wore on.

That's why a win tonight is much more than just a ticket to the Western Conference Finals for the Spurs. It's an extra few days of rest and time with family. Tony Parker and Manu have had a game every other night since their new baby boys were born. Imagine what even one extra day of rest could do for those two guys' focus and drive for the next round of the playoffs.

On the other side of the coin, losing Game 5 is frightening. A loss tonight would send the Spurs on the long flight back to Portland to play in front of an even more jazzed up Moda Center. And if the Spurs fail to close out in Game 6, it would mean they would have been pushed to a Game 7 in two consecutive playoff series with one of the league's most athletic teams waiting for them in the next round, whether it be the Clippers or Thunder. This is not a position San Antonio wants to see themselves in. The Spurs have proven that they are the best team in basketball this season, but extending the series would allow age to level the playing field.

While the Spurs have seemingly moonwalked through this series so far, tonight's game could dictate how the rest of San Antonio's playoff run goes. No matter the outcome the game, I still fully expect the Spurs to move on, though it's two very different situations that are pending the outcome of tonight's matchup.

Are the Spurs going to march into the Western Conference Finals with some much needed rest and time with their families? Or are they going to limp in after another longer-than-it-should-have-been series, only to face one of the two most athletic teams in the league?

This "Gentleman's Sweep" just became vital.

Matchup to watch: Nicolas Batum looked like just remembered how to play in Game 4. The first three games of the series had Batum appearing unsure or unconfident on offense while having his hands full on defense, but that wasn't the same guy we saw on Monday. He put up 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists in Game 4, and more importantly, he gave the Blazers another option on offense. It's been proven that San Antonio can handle a Lillard-Aldridge-Matthews trio so far in this series, but if Game 4 was the offensive awakening for Batum, tonight's game could be interesting.

Game 5, Western Conference Semifinals, 2014 NBA Playoffs
@
Regular Season: 54-28 (23-18 road)
Playoffs: 5-5 (2-3 road)

Regular Season: 62-20 (32-9 home)
Playoffs: 7-4 (5-1 home)
May 14, 2014
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
8:30 pm CST
TV: TNT - Radio: 1200 WOAI
Starters
Damian Lillard PG Tony Parker
Wesley Matthews SG Danny Green
Nicolas Batum SF Kawhi Leonard
LaMarcus Aldridge PF Tim Duncan
Robin Lopez C Tiago Splitter
Advanced Stats
94.9 (12th) Pace 95.0 (10th)
111.5 (2nd) ORtg 110.5 (7th)
107.4 (16th) DRtg 102.4 (3rd)

The perspective of Blazers fans can be found here: Blazers Edge

Game Prediction: Spurs by 4.

Line in Vegas: Spurs by 8.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:

Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com

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