2014 NBA Playoffs: 3 Lessons Learned from The Alamo!


Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Playoffs, Breaking News to Air Alamo: The San Antonio Spurs are good.

When they are engaged and focused, they might even be illegal.

Finally and most importantly, if the bench plays like they did in Game 1, the Spurs might be the World Champions for the fifth time. The San Antonio Spurs showed the Portland Trail Blazers that Friday night was very exciting to watch, but it doesn’t count in the second round.

The Spurs ran Portland out the building, winning 116-92 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. After being sorely tested by a undermanned Dallas Mavericks team that took them to seven games, the Spurs jumped out on Portland early. San Antonio was led by Tony Parker, who had 33 points and nine assists.

Kawhi Leonard had 16 points, while playing excellent defense; Tim Duncan shook off two quick fouls in the first quarter to finish with 12 points and 11 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Trail Blazers with 32 points and 14 rebounds. Damian Lillard finished with 17 points. For a complete follow up of this game please check out Air Alamo Editor Bill Simpson’s recap. As always, it’s an informative and great read.

Game 1 Player of the Game?

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Usually, when I watch NBA Playoffs, I try to learn about what is going on within the action and what adjustments should be made. Here’s what I learned:

1) You guys know that ALL of this started Friday night, right?

May 6, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) moves the ball against the defense of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) in game one of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

While Mike Tirico was losing his voice after Damian Lillard knocked down that series-ending shot that sank the Houston Rockets out of the NBA Playoffs in six games in Portland, Oregon; I think Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was losing his voice, too.

Only I don’t think he was watching the Trail Blazers play the Rockets. I think Coach Popovich was losing his voice from lighting up his team after losing Game 6 against Dallas. Tony Parker basically said it all in the press conference on how the Spurs lost the game: giving up more than 30 points in the first and fourth quarters was unacceptable. Those words were probably mentioned from time to time in the locker room before he came out.

Who wins the Spurs-Blazers series?

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After destroying the Mavericks 119-96 to move on to the second round, the Spurs came out focused and with bad intentions on the defensive end. This was started in Game 7 by Gregg Popovich. I looked at Popovich’s demeanor at the end of the game—when he took Tim Duncan and Tony Parker out, he didn’t even acknowledge them. He looked like a guy who had plans to go out on Sunday, and his players screwed them up by losing Game 6. Popovich sent a message Sunday: The San Antonio Spurs are here to win a championship. Period.

One person that got the message was Tony Parker, who finished with 32 points to finish off Dallas. Speaking of Parker…

2) Tony Parker took Damian Lillard to school in Game 1.

Mar 12, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) drives to the basket past Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (behind) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

There’s one thing I would never recommend a player to do: Give props to someone before you play them.

It shows weakness.

Damian Lillard was talking about how he admired Parker and how he watched his moves on YouTube. I wonder if Lillard will be watching Game 1 on YouTube? Tony Parker destroyed Damian Lillard in Game 1 by coming out and scoring 13 points in the first quarter on his way to 33 points.

Damian Lillard might be Tony Parker one day; In the Spurs’ Game 1 romp, the real deal showed him how it’s done http://t.co/DwA5AuyQLu

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 7, 2014

Parker showed his entire repertoire: scoring inside, outside, on the pick and roll, arriving first to the arena…I mean you get the point. He executed the pick and roll to perfection. You know Damian Lillard woke up constantly that night thinking about the picks he was nailed by on Tuesday night.

Furthermore, the Portland bigs probably had nightmares of Tony Parker’s jumper.

To anyone that wants to learn the game of basketball through the eyes of a point guard, this was the game to watch of the NBA Playoffs, and Tony Parker was your tour guide. He looked in complete control of the game, and it simply looked like a light workout for him.

It was important for the San Antonio Spurs that Parker came out as aggressively as he did. If you need visual evidence, check out the picture above.

3) Let’s all welcome back San Antonio’s bench!

April 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward

Aron Baynes

(16) high fives point guard Patty Mills (8) after the play against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Better late than never I guess.

After doing little more than model NBA apparel in the first round, the Spurs bench made a huge impact in Game 1 of the Conference Semi-Finals. Marco Bellinelli had strong showing, scoring 19 points while the Australian allies, Aron Baynes and Patty Mills, scored 10 points apiece.

As the Editor of the Chicago Bulls website Pippen Ain’t Easy, I can tell every Spurs fan what you have in Marco Bellinelli. Bellinelli is a consistent shooter who can have many games like the one he most recently had for the rest of the playoffs. Marco can spread the floor and provide the proper spacing for the Spurs offense. He is also a capable passer, so he’s not a ball stopper that just chucks shots up. Let me put it this way, if the Bulls had been smart enough to re-sign this guy, maybe they would still be playing now. He’s that important.

I like what Aron Baynes did in Game 1; he was physical and aggressive. The Spurs can use that physicality to wear down LaMarcus Aldridge.

Sure, if you look at the box score and see 32 points, you’d think Aldridge had a good performance—but don’t be fooled, Spurs fans. Aldridge scored what I call a “soft” 32. When a player scores high points in a blowout, that means very little. Bottom line, the Spurs locked down both Aldridge and Lillard by holding them to 17 points combined in the first half. If Baynes can continue to work with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter to wear down Aldridge, he will be very valuable during this series.

Those were my three lessons so far of the NBA Playoffs…Now, learn from this:

The Portland Trail Blazers franchise has played in 218 playoff games… the same amount as Tim Duncan http://t.co/bZfBVsF4YA

— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) May 6, 2014