Wednesday night, the Spurs faced the Blazers in San Antonio. It was a SEGABABA for both teams as the Spurs had beaten the Bulls in Chicago the night before while Portland was busy losing in Memphis to the Grizzlies. Even though both played the night before, the Spurs were the fresher team. San Antonio blew Chicago out and Pop managed everyone's minutes very well; the same did not happen for the Blazers as they played heavy minutes in their loss to Memphis. To further differentiate, the Spurs were surging, looking for their eighth straight win, while the Blazers were slumping, hoping to avoid their fourth straight loss.
The Spurs had momentum and legs on their side and it all seemed to indicate a Spurs' victory was looming, except for the part where they had to play the Blazers. Portland always seems to play the Spurs well. Even before Portland was good, they played the Spurs well. It has not been a fun series to watch if you root for the Silver and Black. LaMarcus Aldridge is always hot. Damian Lillard always hits timely shots. Nicolas Batum somehow decides to take open shots for the first time all season against the Spurs. The ball bounces the wrong way and the officials always seem to favor Portland with the 50/50 calls. Mo Williams is out with an injury, so that's something. But honestly, if I didn't have to recap the game I do not think I would've watched. I've been stung too many times by the Blazers. This was my mindset going into the game, and I'm sure many of you felt the same way.
Recently, the Spurs have been getting off to great starts and it has allowed them to gain control of the game from the onset. It's been a major key to the Spurs' recent winning streak. Against Miami, Orlando and the Bulls, the Spurs won the first quarters 37-22, 31-27 and 38-14, respectively. In those three games, Tony Parker has been brilliant in the opening quarter and led the Spurs to their fantastic starts. Tonight against Portland, the Spurs continued their streak of great play in the first quarter, winning it 30-24, but Tony Parker made just one of six shots and committed three turnovers. The Spurs moved the ball well, despite Parker's struggles, and seven different Spurs scored in the opening frame to help win the quarter.
For Portland, Aldridge kept the Blazers close. He scored eight points, grabbed three rebounds and had one assist in the first quarter because he always has to play well against the Spurs. Always. If I have a persecution complex it's because LeMarcus gave it to me. Batum and Wesley Matthews both contributed five points each, but even though Portland managed to keep it close, it still felt like the Blazers were in for a long night. The Blazers are a dangerous team, but the Spurs are looking nearly unbeatable right now. The defense is there, the older guys are spry and you can just tell that everyone on this team is excited. They can feel it too, and I just did not think they were ready to lose yet.
In the second quarter, the Spurs pulled away. They won it 26-16 to take a 16 point lead into halftime. The Blazers didn't seem like they were going to forfeit the game, but they did appear to be playing on tired legs. The Spurs came at the Blazers in waves, never allowing Portland to catch their breath. The Spurs' bench kept relentless pressure on the Blazers. There was no time to relax for Portland. It was a methodical, consistent beat-down in the first half.
To start the third quarter, Pop trotted out Tony, Danny, Kawhi, Tim and Aron Baynes. He started Baynes instead of Tiago Splitter, and it didn't go well for anyone. During Portland's second possession of the half, Baynes attempted to take a charge on LaMarcus Aldridge. Baynes isn't very coordinated but is a very strong guy; it's not a great combination if you're the other guy. Instead of taking a charge, Baynes basically undercut LaMarcus and then fell. Aldridge landed hard on his back and didn't return to the game. They are calling his injury a lower back contusion. Let's hope that's all it is. LaMarcus finished with 14 pts/4 rebs/1 assist in 21 minutes. While the line may not be incredibly impressive, he was the only thing keeping this game from being a blowout.
When Aldridge went down, the energy was sucked out of the building. The Blazers seemed to recover first, at least Lillard did scoring five straight, and they cut the lead to six halfway through the third. The Spurs took a timeout and then rattled off seven straight points to regain control of the game. The teams traded baskets until the end of the third, at which point, the Spurs had a nine point advantage.
Without Aldridge and on tired legs, the Blazers seemed ready to have the game taken from them and the Spurs obliged. Patty hit a three pointer and Marco hit two more before the Blazers could put any points on the board. Suddenly, the Spurs found themselves up 18 and it was essentially over. From there, the Spurs cruised to their eighth-straight win, 103-90.
For Portland's perspective, please visit the Blazer's Edge.
- The Spurs had a modest 12 turnovers and shot 46% from distance. Magic is pretty sure that the Spurs will win most of their games when they shoot well and don't give the ball away.
- It was a team effort. Here are your leading scorers with the points they contributed tonight: Patty 15, Danny "Big" Green 14, Manu 13, Kawhi 12, Tiago 12, Tim 10, Tony 9, Marco 9. Boris is missing from the list. He only scored three points but did play a good game.
- So, coach, how do you stop this team? Nine guys are all capable of going off. They come at you in waves. Your second unit had better be able to score because if not, the game will be lost before you get your starters back in. Oh, and they can lock your guys down, too. Yep, they can play defense with the best of them. You know how you were hoping that their best player might just be off and play a terrible game. Well, as it turns out, Parker can make just four of 13 shots and turn it over four times and it doesn't really hurt them. So, what do you do? How do you beat this team? I don't think you do. I think this team finishes their season with a win and a trophy.