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.”