Blazer Banter

The Scouting Report: San Antonio Spurs, Game 5

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Blazers found a way to extend their season last Monday night behind inspiring performances from Nicolas Batum and Will Barton in Game 4.’s obvious that they need to keep the aggressiveness that they showed in the Game 4 win but also important that they continue attacking the angles they did in Game 4.

It’s obvious that they need to keep the aggressiveness that they showed in the Game 4 win but also important that they continue attacking the angles they did in Game 4.

Nicolas Batum was putting on a clinic in running the pick and roll with Robin Lopez and his aggressiveness was good enough to lift some of the playmaking burden off of point guard Damian Lillard who was having a tough series up until Monday’s Game 4 win where he dropped 25 points including 9 in the 4th quarters.

In particular, the Blazers looked like they wanted to get Duncan involved in more pick and rolls defensively than Splitter who had been blowing them up for big men and disrupting shots for Damian Lillard.

Batum’s pick and rolls were important but so was his defense on Tony Parker.

Parker did his best to downplay Batum’s effectiveness but he certainly was good at limiting Batum’s shots at the basket.

In Game 4, Parker only took 12 shots which was his lowest total since Game 2 of the Dallas series in the first around and while he still shot 60 percent, keeping the volume down on an efficient guy like Parker should be taken as a small victory.

It certainly helped the Blazers that the Spurs didn’t continually punish the Blazers for giving them three-point looks. A couple of times throughout the game Spurs players were left wide open with chances to punish the Blazers and never could.

The Spurs went a measly 3-for-18 from the 3-point line on Monday.

Also, it turned out the best defense for the Blazers was having a good offense.

For the first time in the series they were able to win the fast break points category against the Spurs that had been such a major focus in the Houston series. The Spurs were far more clinical than the Rockets with their transition and had made the Blazers pay for their turnovers or even bad shots.

While we’ve looked tactically at what the Blazers have done throughout the series, there was an intangible sense of desperation that seemed to propel the Blazers in Game 4 as they faced elimination.

Barton’s mentality fit the type of attack the Blazers had to have, as did Thomas Robinson. It helped that Lillard made big plays throughout the game and gave the Blazers a little distance but more importantly the Blazers brought physicality and energy that the Spurs couldn’t match in Game 4.

Stotts played nearly every single one of his cards in the first three games of the series and appears to have found something the aggression and athleticism of his young players. Mo Williams still may play on Wednesday but it’s worth wondering whether the Blazers are better off trying to use their young athletes against the older Spurs.

Tony Parker, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli have been very efficient in the series and perhaps adding size and athleticism while sacrificing some of Williams’ shot creation is a worthy trade-off in this match-up. Williams has been a major x-factor for the Blazers all season but the size and athleticism of the Blazers young guys is something the Spurs can’t match outside of Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard finally had a mortal game in Game 4, shooting just 50 percent and Marco Belinelli wasn’t his efficient self that he was in the first 3 games of the series off the bench.

The biggest difference throughout the series has been the play of San Antonio’s bench but there’s a possibility that the attacking nature of Barton and Robinson appeared to have thrown them off.

If the Blazers are to bring this series back to Portland, they are going to have to do more of the same.

They need Batum to continue to take pressure of Lillard on offense and still need a good team effort to defend. Barton and Robinson have to continue to breathe energy into the second quarters and stretches the Blazers go without their stars.

The Spurs could of course, as always, play better than they did on Monday.

The best chance the Blazers have of extending their season will be to bring the game to them like they did on Monday with some help from Barton, Batum and co..

It wouldn’t hurt the Blazers if Aldridge or Lillard could finally get loose in this series, too.

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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