Recap: Spurs survive Trail Blazers second half run, pick up 114-97 win

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs are headed to Portland with a 2-0 series lead they earned on Thursday night by exploding for a 41 point second quarter and surviving a 17 point third quarter. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 20 points on 8-9 shooting.

I knew that the Portland Trail Blazers would perform better than they did in Game 1. I expected them to play with incredible intensity to start the game and maybe even get the lead.  But when the Spurs held even through the opening period and even held a small lead at the end of the quarter, I felt that it was going to be a good night.

Nicolas Batum's hot shooting and Damien Lillard's buzzer beating shot to close the period didn't give them a lead, it only helped them maintain pace with the Spurs, who took their best shot in the first quarter, and didn't even stumble. And it was in large part due to the fact that it was the night that many Spurs fans have been waiting for: Kawhi Leonard Emergence Night. He wasn't just a key piece in Game 2, he was a leader and a star. He not only shot 8-9 from the field but he was also a key defensive stopper and had 2 steals, one an incredible feat of timing and athleticism that essentially put the nail in the Blazers' coffin. There's a new star in the firmament at the AT&T center, and it's wearing cornrows.

Portland scored the first basket of the 2nd quarter, cutting the lead to just one point, which made things pretty tense in the AT&T center. But then something wonderful happened--the Spurs unleashed an offensive explosion, outscoring Portland 41-23 for the rest of the quarter. Boris Diaw had the first seven points of the quarter for the Spurs and Marco Belinelli continued his hot shooting from Game 1, draining two three-point shots in the quarter, both of which barely touched net as they went in. Danny Green got into the act by shooting threes before the defense could get set, demoralizing the Blazers with quick scores after made baskets.  Icy hot was just hot Thursday night. Manu was Iron Manu, and he used some great screens from Tim Duncan to get just enough space to take shots that seemed to seek the basket like a guided missile. The 70 points they scored in the first half were a playoff high for the Spurs so far this year.

The defense wasn't bad either, as LaMarcus Aldridge had the most inefficient game I've ever seen him play. He shot 6-23 for the game and it looked a lot worse while it was happening. Robin Lopez played a lot better in Game 2 than he did in Game 1, but he's too limited on offense to make up for such a terrible night from Aldridge.

The Spurs kept up their defensive intensity, but the offense fell off a cliff in the third quarter. The hot shooting deserted the Spurs as ball after ball bricked off the iron. They only scored 17 points in the quarter, but they held the Blazers to only 20, and the lead was still 16 at the end of the quarter. Wesley Matthews hit some timely shots but the rest of the Blazers were kept in check by Spurs defenders.

Things got more tense in the fourth, as the Blazers cut the lead to just 8 with 5:37 left in the game by taking advantage of some Spurs turnovers and hot shooting. The Blazers showed they still had a lot of fight in them and were going to make the Spurs work hard to take a 2-0 lead in the series. But Boris, Manu and Kawhi all scored three pointers as the Spurs closed out the game by outscoring the Blazers 15-6. The Spurs saw the challenge and rose to meet it.

Quick Notes

  • Seven Spurs scored in double figures, and once again the bench surpassed 50 points. Lots of guys on this team contribute. Tony Parker said "our bench is coming alive."
  • Tim Duncan didn't have a huge statistical game but he was instrumental in the Spurs success, by setting screens on almost every successful offensive play. Once he ran a 2 on 2 break with Tony and screened two defenders as Tony ran around him to get an open layup.
  • Tony Parker didn't have a great night shooting, but he had double digit assists and was a facilitator tonight.
  • The Spurs shot only 43% from the free throw line. This could have been a killer if the game were closer.
  • Splitter once again had a really good game, despite having trouble finishing close to the rim on several of his attempts. His defense on Aldridge was key, and he passed well and had some nice finishes. He is the master of the reverse layup.
  • Most of the Spurs played well at times but the most consistent Spur was Kawhi Leonard. Whenever the Spurs needed a basket, he rose to the occasion and was able to create a shot with his length and superior speed. He makes it look easy, but it wouldn't be for anyone else.
  • Boris is great. That is all. He doesn't fear taking shots in big moments. But you can say that about almost anyone on the Spurs roster.
  • Baynes only got about a minute and a half of garbage time after one of his best games as a pro in Game 1. I have no idea what Pop is doing, but it seems to be working.
What's Next?

It's hard to tell whether Portland will be demoralized by playing much better than they did in Game 1 and still losing by a considerable margin, or will they be encouraged by the fact that they were able to keep pace with with the Spurs for about 3 out of 4 quarters.  I think they will gain some confidence from this game, and I also expect that the Spurs won't be as efficient as they have been for the last two games. They will be buoyed by the home crowd and I expect a very close game in Portland.  

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