Blazer Banter

The Scouting Report: San Antonio Spurs, Game 4

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The San Antonio Spurs have played just as good as you can over the course of three dominating win against the Portland Trail Blazers.

On Monday night, the Blazers face elimination on their home court just 10 days after advancing past the first round on a buzzer-beating shot.

In all three games, the game has followed a similar script in terms of the scoring patterns. The Spurs starters will get the Spurs off to a start anywhere between good and very good in the first quarter.

It’s been in the second quarter where the Blazers have struggled the most over the course of three games. The Spurs are averaging 36 points in the second quarter over the last three games while the Blazers have averaged just over 23 points.

The Spurs bench was one of, if not the biggest reason that the Spurs won 62 games and earned the NBA’s best record despite a “variety of maladies”.

In this series it’s been a major difference maker. Without Mo Williams, the bench production suffered even more in Game 3. There was no update on Williams’ status as of Sunday but it sure seems like the Blazers are preparing to play without him.

In Game 3 Stotts tried a lot of funky combinations trying to find something like inserting Victor Claver who up until that game had not been on the active playoff roster. Will Barton brought some aggressiveness, chased down rebounds but the Blazers lacked the scoring punch of the Spurs.

The Blazers have also fed into the Spurs scoring barrage over the past three games with mistakes of their own. Whether it’s giving up an offensive rebound here or there or taking bad shots or having turnovers, it’s leading to Spurs points nearly every time.

In Game 3 the Blazers did a better job of containing the Spurs conversion rate when they did have second chances but were bitten by the turnover bug. Of course, the Spurs took advantage of the turnover opportunities.

The Blazers had 15 turnovers compared to 5 for the Spurs with those 15 turnovers leading to 22 Spurs points.

In the second half the Blazers also decided to give Tony Parker a different look by throwing Batum on him and the Blazers were happy with the results. Something else that Batum did more of in the second half was look for his shot. He scored 15 of his 20 points in the 2nd half while holding Parker to 3-of-8 shooting and only 9 points after a 20-point first half.

(They also ran a nifty inverted or “snug” pick and roll play for Batum in the second half where he caught the ball on the block before getting a screen from Lopez, much like the play the Houston runs for James Harden and Dwight Howard. I thought it was cool and a good way to put a solid pick and roll tandem in different position to score.)

Stotts did mention the possibility of switching more on pick and  rolls as well as trying their zone look.

They’ve missed shots at the rim and in the paint at an alarming rate and the Spurs have made them pay for every mistake. The Spurs are also a major factor in this with their defense and ability to force the Blazers from their comfort zone.

The Spurs have had solid performances from everybody who has hit the court while the Blazers have still yet to have a solid performance from everybody once in this series.

It appears that the Spurs just have the horses and Portland’s are starting to run out of gas. The Blazers could surely do a lot of things better, but they also have to hope that the Spurs stop getting so close to perfection if they want to extend this series.

Popovich and the Spurs haven’t shied away from their game plan, moving through every option of an offensive possession to find a quality look and jumping every option of Portland’s offense.

Outside of a few tweaks here and there, the Blazers aren’t going to be changing their identity as they try to extend their season.

 

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He started writing about NBA Basketball for SwishScout.com before being the Sports Reporter Intern for TrailBlazers.com. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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