San Antonio has the chance to be the first team through to the 2014 Conference Finals with a sweep of the Blazers tonight. After losing every game in the series by at least 15 points, it will take something special for Portland to extend the matchup into a fifth game.
The Spurs' hot shooting, execution and sense of urgency have carried over from Game 7 of the Mavericks series, and Tony Parker, whether being guarded by Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum or Damian Lillard, has consistently gotten to wherever he wants on the court.
Lillard (38% from the field, 7.7% (!) from three) and LaMarcus Aldridge (38% from the field) have struggled greatly against San Antonio's defense, and Terry Stotts is learning how different it is to coach against Gregg Popovich versus Kevin McHale. Whereas McHale failed to contain Aldridge with two vaunted post defenders (Howard and Asik), Pop has used a combination of Tiago, Tim and Boris to keep LMA out of rhythm, while Lillard hasn't gotten the looks he feasted on against Houston.
The Blazers D has been unable to keep with the Spurs' motion attack all series, and San Antonio has been successful in exploiting those breakdowns. It starts with Tony penetrating and coming off screens, but the Spurs' peerless passing ability has led to a number of open shots around the basket. The sight of a Blazer being late back on transition or losing his man on a back-cut has become all-too-common for Portland and, as a result, the paint battle has been one of the many that have tilted in San Antonio's favor.
That said, Spurs fans can't expect the team keep up this series' hot shooting for the rest of the postseason. In three games against Portland, we've seen Kawhi Leonard knocking down an uncharacteristic number of pull-ups, while Boris and Marco are shooting a combined 24 of 34 from the field.
As was expected, San Antonio's bench superiority has played a big role in this series, especially in helping the Spurs secure big leads in the second quarter. Overall, Spurs reserves have outscored Portland's 140 to 43, after the Blazers bench managed only six points on Saturday night. Mo Williams hasn't made his mark on this series yet, and his status for Game 4 is uncertain as of now. His presence could give Portland the bench boost it needs to hang late; his absence will almost certainly guarantee a series sweep.
Matchup to watch: Tony Parker against... everyone. Terry Stotts will likely continue to pursue various ways to contain Tony. We might see a bit of Batum, Matthews and Lillard chasing TP around tonight -- I'm just not sure it'll work.
|Game 4, Western Conference Semifinals, 2014 NBA Playoffs|
|May 12, 2014|
|Moda Center, Portland, Or|
|9:30 pm CST|
|TV: ESPN - Radio: 1200 WOAI|
|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|
|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 9.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:
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