May 14, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) celebrates a basket and a foul against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 104-82. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs took care of business Wednesday night by defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 104-82 and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the third straight year.
The Spurs did not dominate the Blazers in the first half like in their previous victories, but they held the Blazers at bay. The first quarter was ugly for both teams. Both teams came out unenergetic and it showed in their sloppy and inefficient play. The good thing for both teams was that they were tied at 19 apiece after one.
The second quarter was when San Antonio finally started to create some breathing room. The Spurs led by as many as 15 points late in the second quarter, but the Blazers cut the lead to seven going into halftime.
A huge part of their run was at the expense of Tony Parker. Parker headed to the locker room late in the second quarter and was ruled out of the game shortly after halftime with hamstring tightness. This has to be worrisome for the Spurs. Parker is the head of the snake for San Antonio, and although Patty Mills has filled in for Parker admirably throughout the year, he still isn’t Tony Parker. The good thing now is that San Antonio has a few days to rest as they await the winner of the Thunder-Clippers series.
OMG: After Jamie Maggio said there was no status or update on Tony Parker’s injury, Charles Barkley called it the worst update of all time.
— BostonHeraldHS (@BostonHeraldHS) May 15, 2014
In the third quarter the Spurs really distanced themselves enough from Portland where they could essentially put on cruise control in the fourth quarter. A large part of the Spurs’ surge was due to Kawhi Leonard’s offense and defense and Danny Green’s hot shooting.
Kawhi made two early threes in the game that really got him going. As seen throughout the playoffs, when Kawhi is involved early in the Spurs offense, he is usually extremely aggressive throughout the rest of the game on both sides of the ball. That proved to be the case again tonight as he finished with a fantasy-stuffed box score of 22 points on 9-15 shooting from the field, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. He also had a few “did he just do that” moments and finished 3-4 from behind the arc tonight and made a third of San Antonio’s threes. If San Antonio expects to beat the Thunder of the Clippers, then they are going to need an aggressive Kawhi Leonard.
Danny Green also had a terrific game tonight and finished with 22 points on 9-13 shooting (4-6 from three) and had 9 rebounds. Although the Spurs were getting dominated up in Portland in Game 4, Popovich kept Green in to see if he could get Green going offensively. Popovich’s plan worked and Green’s play noticeably carried over into Game 5. As with Leonard, if Green is making his shots early, he is much more involved defensively.
Who will the Spurs Face in the Conference Finals?
Since the Spurs other starters – Parker, Duncan, and Splitter – are not the most athletic guys on the floor, Kawhi and Danny really pick up their slack. Look for Kawhi and Danny to build off their Game 5 performances in the Western Conference Finals.
After one of his best playoff series in years against the Dallas Mavericks, Manu Ginobili came back down to earth in his matchup with Portland. Manu looked uncomfortable throughout the whole series and never got going offensively. He admitted to being fatigued, so these few days off could prove to be extremely beneficial for him. The Spurs are going to need an aggressive Manu, especially if Parker is hampered by his hamstring injury, to be the Spurs floor general and playmaker.
Overall, the Spurs showed that they were the better team once again and deserved to advance for a shot at the NBA Finals. Portland deserves a lot of credit and has a bright, bright future as a franchise. However, right now is all that matters and San Antonio is looking for bigger and better things as they advance to the Western Conference Finals.
**All stats from NBA.com