Portland Trail Blazers – Delaying the Inevitable

Blazers beat Spurs

The Portland Trail Blazers believe that they can become the first team in NBA history to overturn a 0-3 start to a playoff series and come out victorious. It certainly looked like that confidence was a driving force in their 103-92 win over the San Antonio Spurs, who still lead this series 3-1.

It was a big night for Damian Lillard with 25 points, finally not looking humiliated by Tony Parker. The point guard looked to attack the rim all game long, finishing with 11-of-21 from the field and looking extremely good when he wasn’t trying tough 3’s, which is something he can’t seem to stop doing. Nicolas Batum scored 14 points, but added 14 rebounds, 8 assists and most importantly excellent defense; Spurs players mentioned him as the best for the Blazers in game 4.

The Spurs had their worst game in terms of offensive efficiency with only 92.9 points per 100 possessions, more than 20 points lower than their average. They shot a terrible 16.7% from beyond the arc and hardly got into transition, scoring only 8 points on fast breaks and not doing so well off of the Blazers’ turnovers. Their worst player might have been Manu Ginobili, their best player during the Mavs series. He was only 1-of-6 from the field, finishing with two points.

The Blazers forgot about their previous problems, and maybe boosted by desperate energy stuck to driving to the basket, looking a lot more aggressive all game long but especially not shell shocked during the early minutes, which was a huge problem in the previous three losses. Damian Lillard, scoring 25 points, had 11 points on drives to the basket including an impressive dunk with Tim Duncan watching helplessly, as the Blazers outscored the Spurs that way 22-9.

It led to a huge difference in points in the paint with the Blazers winning that battle 62-44 which is tied for the most points in the paint the Spurs have given up in a playoff game under Gregg Popovich. LaMarcus Aldridge handled the defense of Tiago Splitter a lot better than  in the previous two games, scoring 12 of his 19 points with the Brazilian center guarding him. He shot 60% from the field and was 4-of-5 on post up plays with Splitter on him, his points per play jumping to 1 compared to 0.4 against Splitter in games 2 and 3.

One surprising factor was the help the Blazers got from the bench. Mo Williams isn’t playing, but Thomas Robinson with 9 points in 17 minutes and especially Will Barton with 17 points in 30 minutes gave Portland a much needed boost they’re not used to getting from their second unit. It’s hard to see Portland winning three more games without dropping one having such a short rotation, but at least they found there is something that works.

But as much as energy and confidence can prove to be a successful motivator, it’s hard to see this as more than some sort of feel-good moment for a team that simply isn’t up to par with what’s needed to win a seven-game series; especially at this stage of the season and especially against the Spurs, who need to hope that this was simply a bump on the road that was used to get key players some rest, and not some newly found weakness that might come back to haunt them later on.

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