For the second straight game the San Antonio Spurs find themselves in triple overtime, and once again end up on the losing side. A great performance from Damian Lillard when it mattered the most led his team to a 129-119 victory on the road.
The Spurs don’t need to worry about losing these two marathons, even if they were at home, but giving Tim Duncan another night of 43 minutes probably wasn’t something Gregg Popovich had planned out for his big man. Duncan has now played 91 minutes in two games, which obviously means a rest pretty soon, although with Tony Parker out due to a hamstring problem and Kawhi Leonard not playing, it might take some time before he does get that much needed game off.
Lillard scored 43 points in 53 minutes, including nine points in the third overtime, as it seemed like the Spurs were falling off their feet in the final five minutes, getting outscored by 17 points. Lillard’s nine points in the third overtime is the most in such a situation since Westbrook had 13 points on December 1, 2010 for the Thunder against the Nets. Lillard was especially successful when staying away from the jump shot and driving to the basket, scoring 14 points on 11 drives, more than double his average this season, making 62.5% of those attempts.
Lillard scored 26 of his points in the fourth quarter and the three overtime periods. He made only 5-of-11 field goals in the previous three quarters, but was red hot with 11 of 18 when the game was on the line. This effort came without any buzzer beaters like the previous triple overtime game we had. It was once again Tim Duncan on a big night, scoring a season high 32 points and also the oldest player since Michael Jordan with consecutive games of 43 minutes or more. The worst thing for the Spurs is their 0-4 record in overtime this season, but Popovich tends to make these numbers mean less and less when the playoff come around.
For the Blazers, this win might be something of a exercise in exorcism. They lost 4-1 in the conference semifinals to the Spurs last season, losing all of their three games on the road. It took some players missing from the Spurs lineup to get this big road win, but they also did it without Robin Lopez (Joel Freeland starting for him and scoring 6 points) and Nicolas Batum, replaced by Alan Crabbe who didn’t score a single point.
Inspire of the diluting of their bench, they did get efficient nights from Dorell Wright, scoring 12 points to go with 8 rebounds, and Steve Blake scoring 10 points. The Blazers made the most of when the Spurs turned to their bench, maybe the most surprising feature in this game, as the minutes of Marco Belinelli and Manu Ginobili were the worst for the Spurs in the loss, falling to 17-10 this season. It’s never too late to conjure up the Spring runs the Spurs are famous for, but they are only 7th in the West, six games behind the Warriors and on a three game losing streak.
The Blazers are a bit closer to the top of the business right now. Once again, it’s mostly due to fantastic scoring nights from Lillard (21.6 points per game) and Aldridge, adding 32 and averaging 22.6 points per game this season. But besides the attempts to move away from streaky shooting, the Blazers are hoping that glimpses of improved defense, smarter offense and even a bench that helps out are something that’s not going to disappear later on in the season.