Aside from one minor glitch and bump on the road, the San Antonio Spurs got no problems from the Portland Trail Blazers in a very easy and short conference semifinals series, winning 104-82 in game 5 to take the series 4-1 and put themselves in the conference finals for a third consecutive season.
This was a demonstration of how to execute transition offense, and more than anyone it was a tour de force by Kawhi Leonard, showing his complete skill set, from his ability to hit 3-pointers on the catch and shoot, be an immovable object on defense, his length, speed and strength with the ability to finish with authority on the fast break. He scored 22 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 steals as the Blazers started out well but couldn’t keep up the rest of the way.
Not all is good in Spurs land. Tony Parker left with a mysterious injury early on and didn’t return. It turned out to be some hamstring tightness, and once again the Spurs need to worry about their point guard’s fatigue and health, something that was among the things that cost them the victory in the NBA finals. The Spurs actually started playing better once Parker left the game, as the extended time for Patty Mills, not having the best of playoffs, turned out to be a determining factor.
Leonard wasn’t the only one who dominated. Danny Green kept finding himself open to knock down easy shots and score 22 points (that’s the only way he can score). Mills added 18 from the bench, Tim Duncan scored 16 and Tiago Splitter rebounded from a rough defensive performance in game 4 to make life difficult for LaMarcus Aldridge on the post again. Aldridge started out hot with some open jumpers in the first quarter, but cooled off when things got faster and more physical later in the game, scoring 21 points.
The Blazers turned the ball over 18 times, conceding 36 transition points and 33 on the fast break. Kawhi Leonard was too much for them all series long, holding the players he was guarding to 6-of-20 from the field through the five games. The Blazers relied too much on jump shots all season long, and a better defense made it difficult for them unlike the Rockets. Damian Lillard hit 15-of-34 contested 3-pointers against the Rockets, but was only 1-of-13 on the same kind of shot against the Spurs. He finished with 7-of-18 from the field in the loss in game 5.
The Spurs are probably hoping that the other Western series (Clippers vs Thunder) goes to a game 7. Extra rest is always a good thing, but especially with Parker ailing a hurting hamstring. This series against the Blazers wasn’t the most taxing, especially when compared with the 7-game series against the Mavericks, yet when we reach mid and late May, no matter how many games were played the body and mind get tired.
The Blazers had no bench and no plan B for when their jump shots stopped working. Teams relying on those aspects will always fall short of their goal, as the Spurs were the perfect team to point out their flaws through a best-of-seven series. For San Antonio, this wasn’t a challenge that made them better, but simply another anecdote for a team that has its eye on the prize, and wasn’t going to get itself mixed up against inferior competition for a second straight time.