May 12, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guardDamian Lillard
(0) fouls San Antonio Spurs guardCory Joseph
(5) in the second half of game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Well, it looks like the Portland Trail Blazers have a pulse.
The San Antonio Spurs did not get the sweep that many predicted (myself included).
Now, the series now is back in San Antonio for Game 5. I really don’t see any reason to panic here if you are a Spurs fan. This was a little more about the Trail Blazers and they way they played as opposed the Spurs losing this game. They looked looser and played like they had nothing to lose, which they didn’t.
We get to see now if Portland played not to get swept, or are they playing to get back in this series. The Trail Blazers were led by Damian Lillard who scored 25 points in what was easily his best game of the series. LaMarcus Aldridge backed him up with 19 points. Nicolas Batum who has been the best player for Portland in this series had his first career playoff double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Tony Parker had 14 points to lead the Spurs while Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw had 12 points. Kawhi Leonard finished with 11 points.
This game was about adjustments on the Blazers side of the ball that San Antonio needs to address. Let’s get to the three lessons.
1. The Portland Trail Blazers may have found a way to slow down Tony Parker.
Mar 12, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum (88) and San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
When you get to the playoffs, two things come into play: match ups and adjustments.
Portland Head Coach Terry Stotts made a masterful move by putting Nicolas Batum on Tony Parker. Granted, Batum almost messed around and got a triple double scoring 14 points grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out eight assists, but it was his defense on Tony Parker that was the key in this game. It slowed the offense down and stopped the easy dribble penetration into the paint.
Let’s be clear here, Spurs fans, Damian Lillard cannot stop Tony Parker, period.
Tony Parker is too experienced, has a better offensive system and right now at this stage in his career, too good. Parker right now is possibly the best point guard in the NBA. Switching a longer athletic Batum over to guard Parker was an adjustment that may have caught the Spurs off guard and made a positive impact. The move also opened up things for Damian Lillard on the offensive end not having to chase Parker all over the court. Look this may not work in Game 5, but holding Parker to 14 points after he had been on a tear scoring 29 points or more in three of the last four playoff games, they might have found a good place to start.
2. The Portland bench outplayed San Antonio’s.
May 12, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guardWill Barton
(5) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) in the first half of game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Again, this is about the adjustments that Terry Stotts made in a critical decisive game.
Will Barton provided the spark off the bench scoring 17 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out two assists. This was the best bench performance since Brian Grant against Utah back in 2000. Umm this is before the “Jail Blazer” days folks, this is a long time. Thomas Robinson scored nine points but it was more about the energy that he brought to the game.
For the first three games, there was not much passion from Portland and basically nothing from the bench. In Game four, these two played their way into some minutes in Game 5. This needs to be said about Manu Ginobli going forward. He needs to play better. This will not be of much consequence in this series because the Spurs are going to win, but in the next round, the Spurs are going to need a better effort than a two point, two rebound and two assist clunker job he put up in Game 4.
Come on, Manu!
3. Danny Green has to start knocking down shots from downtown.
May 8, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (4) drives to the basket as Portland Trail Blazers guard Will Barton (behind) defends in game two of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 114-97. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
This is a question to all San Antonio Spurs fans and Air Alamo staff; I’ve only been covering the Spurs for a week and a half and, maybe, I’m missing something: Does anyone know where Danny Green’s three-point shot went? Remember back in the NBA Finals when he could hit shots from Las Vegas? He broke Ray Allen‘s three point record having him look bad when the cameras was pointed at him?
Those days seem to be gone. He shot a putrid 1-7 from the three-point stripe. Like Manu Ginobli, he is another player that is going to have to get better going forward in this year’s playoffs. The Spurs are going to need his long distance shooting to open up spacing for Tony Parker to get into the lane and create offense. If he has lost his confidence, he needs to find it quick. If not, the Spurs have a capable guy in Marco Bellinelli that can fill that role quite nicely, trust me.
Here’s my three lessons…Now learn from this!
Game 4’s loss to Portland was the first since May 1, 1993 in the first round. Man, that’s a long time!