Another big game from the Portland Trail Blazers against a potential playoff rival on the road, showing that they’re more than just a passing trend. Beating the San Antonio Spurs 109-100 is something of a declaration of intent, and it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone if we see this bunch still hanging around in late May and early June.
The Spurs weren’t in the game in the fourth quarter. Maybe not having Gregg Popovich had something to do with it, with their head coach ejected after arguing with Mark Ayotte and Bill Kennedy. It might have been a planned thing. Manu Ginobili scored 18 straight points to close the quarter and help San Antonio outscore Portland 33-12 following Popovich’s ejection. Ginobili finished with 29 points, his best scoring night since Feb. 27, 2011 when he scored 35 against the Grizzlies, but it didn’t help on another hot shooting night from at least three Blazers players.
LaMarcus Aldrdige finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Wesley Matthews scoring 24 points on 6-of-7 from beyond the arc and Damian Lillard scored 21 points, adding 8 assists. The Blazers didn’t get too much offensively from Batum, but the all-around Frenchman added 9 rebounds, 7 assists and a lot of great fourth quarter defense to help the Blazers advance to only 0.5 games behind the Spurs in the lead for the Western conference.
To beat the best team in the West on their floor — that sticks out. We showed a lot of resolve at both ends of the floor. I thought we had a good defensive game throughout, except for the stretch in the third quarter when they hit the 3s. We knew eventually they would find their way back into the game, especially after Pop got tossed. He looked like he wanted to get tossed because he just kept going off. I knew that that would spark something in their team. They got some calls they made some shots.
The Spurs are always about more than the regular season, but their 1-8 record against the West’s remaining top-five teams and the East’s best, Indiana, as criticism of being unable to beat the elite teams becomes more and more vocal, and probably affecting Popovich and his players more than anyone might expect.
We don’t ignore anything. It’s like when we started the season the first thing we did was watch Game 6 in Miami . We look everything square in the eye and talk about what we need to do.
The Blazers will continue to get questioned until we see them in the postseason, which will be a first for plenty of players on this group, at least in a leading role. The last time the franchise won a playoff series was in 2000 before losing in the conference finals to the Lakers. Since then it’s been six playoff visits, all with first round exits. No one is denying that the Blazers are going to make it for the first time since 2011, but the doubts will be hanging above their heads until they win a best-of-7, and not just in big games during the regular season.