SAN ANTONIO — The 2014 NBA postseason came to a close for the Trail Blazers Wednesday night in San Antonio with a 104-82 loss to the Spurs in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal. The Spurs take the series 4-1 and move on to face the winner of the Thunder/Clippers series.
“I’d like to congratulate the Spurs, their organization, Coach Pop and his staff,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They’ve done a terrific job all year and they showed, after a tough series with Dallas, they came out and played extremely well this series. I think it’s a compliment to all the years they’ve been here, the program that they’ve developed. They certainly outplayed us in this series.”
The Trail Blazers finish the 2013-14 campaign with 59 wins, their most since 2000.
“I think we have had a very good year,” said Stotts. “I think it was a special year. We weren’t expected to be in the position we were in the regular season. We weren’t expected to win the first round. It was a special year. I thought everyone of our stars had career years. The young guys got better. We fought through adversity during the season. We made a strong push at the end of the year. There were so many positives about this season. One of the tough things about losing in the playoffs is you end on a loss. I think it is important that we look back at what we were able to accomplish this year. We got a taste of playoffs. We got a taste of success. It is something that we can build on going into next season.”
Through the first two quarters, it looked as though the Trail Blazers might put themselves in position to continue their season with a Game 6 in Portland. They didn’t make their first field goal until the 7:37 mark of the first quarter, but unlike in other games at the AT&T Center, the Trail Blazers got off the mat and fought back. After trailing by seven, Portland finish the first quarter outscoring San Antonio 18-11 to tie the game at 19-19 going into the second quarter.
A similar scenario would play out in the second quarter, though this time, Portland couldn’t get back to even. As they did in seemingly ever second quarter at home in the series, the Spurs used a quick, overwhelming run, this time of the 13-4 variety, to push their lead well into double digits.
Though once again, the Trail Blazers managed to come back. They used a 12-4 run to end the half to get the deficit down to seven before the halftime intermission.
But in the third quarter, the Spurs would put the Trail Blazers away for good. A 13-2 run to start the second half game the Spurs an 18-point lead before four minutes had elapsed in the third quarter.
“They make plays, we make a lot of mistakes, myself first,” said Nicolas Batum. “Turn the ball over too many times. They’re the San Antonio Spurs, they’re good. They play those games. They stick together and play great basketball.”
Portland would cut into the lead at various times through the third, but not deep enough to get back in the game against a disciplined team like San Antonio.
“They’re not a championship team for nothing,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished with 14 points, three rebounds and an assist in 37 minutes. “They play well. They’re like a puzzle. Different piece fit and different pieces show up on any given night. For the most part all series, Danny Green was quiet and then he erupted for 22 points, he had timely threes that just deflated us. We kept fighting, we kept fighting but credit them.”
Portland trailed by 14 going into the fourth quarter, not an insurmountable deficit for a team that had made a comeback after comeback this season. But the Spurs, a team playing as well as any right now, would simply not allow the Trail Blazers to get back in the game. San Antonio would push their lead to as many as 28 in the fourth before Stotts waived the white flag by putting in his reserves with three minutes to play in regulation. It would be the end of a season that would start with low expectations, at least from the national media, and conclude with a trip to the second-round for the first time in 14 years.
“Since Day 1 I felt this team would be special,” said Aldridge. “Every guy came into training camp ready to work, every guy came in with a very unselfish attitude and played a brand of basketball I hadn’t seen until the Spurs. I was very high on this team early and we definitely lived up to my hype of speaking boldly and saying we would be a seven-seed during the preseason. I think we definitely exceeded that expectation and I think every guy got better. I’m proud of this team from top to bottom because guys who didn’t play came in every day, they worked and they got better. Guys who started and played a lot of minutes got better. I’m proud of this team. I think everybody counted us out and we kind of embraced that role and I felt guys played great in their role.”
“It was felt like we were one of ‘those teams,'” said Lillard. “The whole season I felt like we were one of those teams that people looked to and people were talking about. Me and LA had really good seasons, both made the All-Star team, Nico had a really good season, Wes, RoLo, Mo. I think our team, we were one of those teams this season. There’s only eight teams playing right now. We were one of the last eight to play. I think that’s big-time of our team.”
After the game, most of the players in Portland’s locker room were able to appreciate what they had achieved this season. But by that same token, none were satisfied about how their season ended. The same determination and pride that pushed them to defy expectations also left them feeling that there was so much more left to accomplish.
“As far as the season, it was a hell of a season,” said Matthews. “To do what we did, through the adversity that we had, through the doubt that surrounded us to start the year off, we accomplished way more than anybody thought we would. That’s something to be proud of. But this team, we were hungry. We predicted a special year and this was big, making it to the second round was big, but this team isn’t a content team. We’re not happy with our departure but we are proud of how we got here. That’s what I got.”
OAKLAND — For the first three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, something that only two teams have managed to do in the last seven months.
But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, NBA games last four quarters. And Tuesday night in Oakland, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 110-99 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals.
“We played three really good quarters, and we showed that we can compete with them, and it got away from us in the fourth quarter, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to lose a game that you’re competitive and you’re in a position to be in the fourth quarter. But we’ve got to close it out… It was an opportunity to get a win on the road, and we’ve got to learn from it and be ready to go get one in Game Three.”
The Warriors now lead the series 2-0.
“I think nights like tonight, they suck,” said Damian Lillard. “It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth. The entire season has been growth for us. But nights like tonight, we have to close that out. We have to get that done. It was just a missed opportunity.”
The first half of Tuesday night’s game went about as well as the Trail Blazers could possible expect, with Portland taking a 17-point lead in the second quarter thanks to shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Though the Warriors would cut into the Trail Blazers lead thanks to an 18-3 run, Portland, as was the case for most of the night, always seemed to counter at just the right time to quiet the Oracle Arena crowd. That counter in at the end of the second quarter came courtesy of back-to-back threes from Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard to push the lead back to eight by the intermission.
Portland, thanks mostly to Lillard going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from three in the third, extended their lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter before Golden State got white hot to finish out the game. The Warriors took their first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter and would go on to win by 11 after finishing out the game by shooting 11-of-18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Trail Blazers also play right into the Warriors’ hands by turning the ball over five times while going 5-of-19 from the field.
“I think the last run, they were desperate,” said Lillard. “It got to the point where it was win or lose. There wasn’t another quarter after that. It wasn’t just stay with it. It was, ‘We’ve got to do it now.’ And they played desperate, and we just didn’t respond to it well enough to finish the game.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored 17 in the third quarter before finishing with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 shooting from three, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. CJ McCollum went 9-of-19 for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes.
Aminu got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter before finishing with 14 to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Maurice Harkless would add 11 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes with Gerald Henderson coming off the bench to add 12.
As was the case in Game One, Klay Thompson would lead the Warriors with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-14 shooting from three. Draymond Green, who was the driving force along with Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s pivotal fourth quarter, was just shy of another triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes while also blocking four shots.
“I think there came a point where me and Klay were trying to do too much,” said Green. “When we settled down and trusted everybody else, that’s when everything started to click for us. So as far as the way I’ve been playing with the exception of that one game, it’s playoff basketball. This is what we live for. You play the whole season to get to this point.”
Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Andre Igoudala putting up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench.
Next up, the series takes a three-day break before shifting to Portland for Game Three on Saturday at the Moda Center.
“We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away,” said Lillard. “We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different. In our last series against the Clippers, we were down 0-2. We went home, and the next two games they were pretty much full strength. They had their guys and we got it done those two games. Obviously, Golden State is a different monster, but we know the same thing can happen, and that’s what we’re going in there thinking and believing, and we’re back on our home floor. We’ve got to go out there and play a game like tonight and go finish it.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.
The Trail Blazers held shootaround Tuesday morning at the Olympic Club in downtown San Fransisco in preparation for tonight’s Game Two of the Western Conference semifinal matchup versus the Warriors at Oracle Arena (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM). Some notes from shootaround…
• The Trail Blazers, after losing badly in Game One of their first round series versus the Clippers, made a host of adjustments going into Game Two. Whether it was having Al-Farouq Aminu guard Chris Paul, using Mason Plumlee to initiate more of the offense or giving spot minutes to Chris Kaman, Terry Stotts and is staff came up with a number of ways to mitigate L.A.’s advantages, which ultimately helped the Trail Blazers go on to win the series in six games.
So after the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the the Warriors in Game One of their second round series on Sunday afternoon, one might have assumed that Portland would once again make wholesale changes in time for Game Two Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. Turns out, that isn’t necessarily the case. While the Trail Blazers are sure to try a few different things, their adjustments will likely be a change of approach rather than tactics.
“The short answer to that is a little bit less only because it’s such a different style,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of whether he’d be make more or less adjustments versus the Warriors. “So the adjustments that we’re making for this series is just trying to adjust from playing a team that’s so different than the team that we just played six games. Clippers play a different style of game, and that’s the adjustment we have to make.”
That difference in styles between the Clippers and Warriors makes Portland’s preparation for Game Two a bit more abstract than it was in the last series. The Warriors tend to play more of a freewheeling brand of basketball than the Clippers, which requires more nuanced adjustments on Portland’s end.
“I would say fewer adjustments for sure, because they play basketball,” said Mason Plumlee. “There aren’t a whole lot of plays, they exploit what they see as their playing the game. So it’s not a whole lot of scouting of plays, it’s more tendencies and personnel.”
The changes that worked versus the Clippers not necessarily working versus the Warriors is more proof of the individuality of every playoff series. The situations might be somewhat similar, but that doesn’t mean the solutions are the same.
“Everybody keeps drawing comparisons; you’ve got to let that last series go,” said Plumlee. “Every series is new, they’re a better team. This series is completely different so we have to make a point to come out and win this next game. I don’t think you can count on them getting up 2-0 and then giving you four-straight, so this next game is a big one.”
• When the Warriors went to their small lineups in Game One, the Trail Blazers countered by doing the same, with varying degrees of success. Portland played multiple lineups during the course of Sunday afternoon’s loss that have rarely been on the court together this season, if at all, including a five-man group that featured Maurice Harkless at “center” surrounded by four guards.
But Golden State has extensive experience utilizing small lineups, at least relative to Portland, and with the personnel on their roster reflecting that reality. So it’s debatable just how much the Trail Blazers should try to match those units rather than trying to take advantage of a size advantage.
“I’ll be dating myself, but when Seattle beat Golden State back in ’92, ’93, something like that, and (Don Nelson) was playing small ball and George (Karl) stayed big with Benoit Benjamin and Derrick McKey and Shawn Kemp. So (Seattle) beat (Golden State) playing to their strengths. I think the important thing is that you play to your strengths more than anything else.”
Stotts will likely continue to give some nontraditional lineups a try when the Warriors go small, but it’ll be just as important for their standard lineups to fare better than they did in Game One, particularly after giving up 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points.
Said Mason Plumlee: “I think a way to punish them when they go small is to own the glass, get second-chance points and finish everything inside.”
• Though no one in the media knew about it until he answered questions in a decidedly raspy voice after Game One, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has been battling a significant chest cold for roughly the last week. While it stands to reason that an athlete, especially one playing at the highest level, would be affected negatively by such an illness, Lillard refused to blame the infirmaty for his less-than-stellar performance Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena.
“I actually felt pretty good,” said Lillard. “Obviously being clogged up inside, it has you a little bit more winded than usual. There’s no excuses. The bottom line is my team needs me to perform better than I did.”
And it sounds, literally, like Lillard’s lungs won’t be as much of an issue in Game Two. The 6-3 point guard in his fourth season out of Weber State didn’t exactly sound like his normal self prior to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, but he said he’s making progress toward feeling better and didn’t sound as though his chest was on fire when making said proclamation.
“I feel better,” said Lillard. “Obviously still trying to shake it. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last two days, just trying to do different stuff to make myself feel better for tonight.”
Greetings from San Fransisco. After the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the Warriors in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, grabbed a couple mics to record the first second round edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which is now available for your afternoon listening…
On this edition, we discuss Sunday afternoon’s loss, Portland’s tough start and whether there’s anything positive to be taken from the last three quarters, dealing with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the eventual return of Stephen Curry and if there any similarities between Sunday’s game and Game One versus the Clippers. We also answer a host of questions about Allen Crabbe, the enthusiasm at Oracle Arena, the quick turnaround from Game Six to the second Game One and give some tips on packing for regular business travel. And we also start the show off with some bad Mike Meyers impersonations. Sorry about that.