Road Takes: Blazers add another big win to growing resume in San Antonio
I mean, how much stuff happened tonight?
I got lost somewhere between Spurs coach Gregg Popovich getting tossed, Manu Ginobili going NOVA in the third quarter, Wesley Matthews going SUPER NOVA and the all-around moxie of this Blazers team.
In the end, the Portland Trail Blazers came out of San Antonio victorious 109-100 by playing consistent defense for four quarters and some big time shots from the usual cast of characters.
LaMarcus Aldridge was a beast again in the second half, going to work on the block and in the pick and pop. 20 of his 26 points came in the second half and the Blazers needed everything from everybody tonight.
Wesley Matthews was lights out from the field but especially so from the three-point line. Matthews went six of seven from the three-point line including going three-for-three in the fourth quarter.
Matthews’ first three of the fourth quarter came when the Blazers led only by one and it helped spark the Blazers to a 17-9 run in the game’s final 3:46.
Both teams were tied after the first quarter as the Blazers didn’t let their stretch of poor starts carry over into tonight’s big-time matchup.
The Blazers were pretty consistent defensively for most of the game, with the exception of their defense in the last six minutes of the third quarter when Manu Ginobili scored 18 points in a row for the Spurs.
And, for a player as great as Ginobili, sometimes there is no defense when they get in that type of zone.
Aside from that, nothing was easy for the Spurs on this night. Unlike when the Blazers needed to put together a super performance in the fourth quarter in Oklahoma City and needed Kevin Durant to go 0-for, this time the Blazers stayed the course for the whole game.
The Blazers broke San Antonio’s streak of consecutive games shooting over 50 percent from the field, which was five coming in. The Blazers defense in the second and fourth quarters was especially good.
Damian Lillard chipped in 21 points despite having an off night from the field. He made up for his rough shooting by getting to the foul line and doing some good lobbying to get some calls after not having his way on them early.
Coach Pop didn’t have his way and got tossed.
However, Popovich’s ejection sparked the Spurs who were led by Ginobili in the 3rd quarter. After Damian Lillard canned both technical free-throws at the 7:18 mark, the Spurs went on a 21-10 run to close the quarter.
The Blazers bench couldn’t do much to stop the momentum but almost immediately after LaMarcus Aldridge returned to the court at the 8:34 mark, the game changed and Portland went from down by five points to taking the lead back in three minutes.
The Blazers bench needs some more time to marinate but if you don’t believe in the Blazers, tonight’s fourth quarter was just another resume builder as to why you should.
Batum made beautiful passes. Lillard attacked the glass and managed the game even with his shot not falling. Wesley Matthews made the shots that Wesley Matthews makes, LaMarcus Aldridge was in MVP-like form and Lopez did his thing by doing what doesn’t show up in the stat sheet.
Tony Parker suited up tonight because he knew this game meant a lot to the Spurs.
This road trip won’t get any easier and who knows how “real” the Blazers will be considered by the end of it.
But having four players who have the confidence and ability to take and make shots in the fourth quarter is real. Something by my count that only a few other teams (Miami, Golden State, San Antonio, who else?) have.
And tonight’s consistency, for at least two out of four quarters on the defensive end was a step in the right direction.
Whether they continue to move forward in their consistency, easily their biggest weakness, is something to watch for.
But when they are at their best, they are as real as anybody in the NBA. They’ve beaten everyone, save for Miami, who is considered a title contender.
They’re now just a 1/2 game back of the Spurs for first place in the West and can take first place in with a win tomorrow in Dallas.