A: Gary NealEliminate the fourth quarter and Neal still performed admirably for the ill Tony Parker. Neal made six of his seven attempts in the final period, including seven points in the first two minutes that gave the Spurs a 84-79 lead. The effectiveness of Neal, who scored a career p-high 27 points, was pivotal in the waning minutes when the Blazers trapped the pick-and-roll. Trapping meant Ginobili was open in the corner and starting point guard Damian Lillard rotated to Tim Duncan. The result was a Duncan layup and an extra free throw, giving the Spurs a three-point lead that would later be erased by Nicolas Batum’s fifth 3-pointer of the night.
B: Tim DuncanIn continuing his recent string of dominant performances, Duncan is single-handedly defying Father Time. In lieu of the interior, where he is more susceptible to injury, Duncan has evolved into a big man with range that stretches to 18 feet.
And he can still score in the low block as the Blazers witnessed. With the occasional post-up to keep the defense honest, Duncan scored more than 20 points for the fourth time in seven games. The 16-year veteran is averaging 18.9 points and 9.7 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game.
C: Damian LillardThe difference between first half Lillard and second half Lillard was stark. In the first half, Lillard was making the extra pass and getting the Blazers’ tertiary players involved in the offense. He came off screens aggressively, knocking down three of four 3-pointers.
In the second half, Lillard wasn’t nearly as confident. He was held scoreless for 17 consecutive minutes until a pull-up jumper with 5:03 remaining in the fourth gave him his first points of the half. The 22-year-old still finished with an excellent line — 20-6-3 with two steals in 38 minutes — but it could have been much better.
D: Tiago SplitterSplitter tied for the team-high in turnovers (3) and struggled to finish under duress, often after a pinpoint pass was delivered. He was generally too soft, rarely going up strong through contact, and his hands impeded him from catching the ball smoothly and in rhythm. He did make both of his free throws so I guess that’s something.
F: Boris DiawAfter being inserted back into the starting lineup, Diaw was practically nonexistent, refraining from a single shot attempt and failing to grab a rebound in 15 minutes. He did account for two assists but his three personal fouls limited what could have been a good opportunity to solidify his role in the starting rotation.