SAN ANTONIO – Texas hasn’t been nearly as kind to the Trail Blazers this time around.
After winning the first two games of their first-round series versus the Rockets in Houston, the Trail Blazers now find themselves down 2-0 to the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals after a 114-97 loss Thursday night at the AT&T Center.
“We were good in spots, but I don’t think we are close to playing our best game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts “We were good in the first quarter. I thought we were good for a long period of the second half. That second quarter, the lead just ballooned. You get down and you’re fighting an uphill battle. It is hard to evaluate the game because of that stretch.”
The series now moves to Portland, where the Trail Blazers will host the Spurs for next two games start Saturday night at the Moda Center.
After getting run out of the building early in Game 1, the Trail Blazers turned in a vastly superior effort to start Game 2. San Antonio still managed to shoot 52 percent from the field and Portland turned the ball over four times, but the Trail Blazers held Tony Parker to just two points, pounded the glass for 12 rebounds and shot 42 percent from the field.
Sure, they trailed 29-26 going into the second half, but after being down 13 points after 12 minutes in Game 1, a three-point deficit was an absolute victory for the road team.
next 12 minutes, however, were not fruitful. San Antonio reeled off a 19-4 run early in the second to take complete control of the game. The Spurs would shoot 63 percent from the field and 71 percent from three in the quarter to finish with 41 points, a franchise worse for points allowed in a quarter in the playoffs. San Antonio would lead by as many as 20 before taking a 70-51 lead into the halftime intermission.
“The first five minutes (of the second quarter) was huge for them,” said Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum. “They scored 25 points. They got offensive rebounds, threes, we didn’t stop them. We had a good start finally. Compared to last game we had a good first quarter. Right there in the game, but then the first five minutes we let them do whatever they wanted. They made threes, offensive rebounds, transition points, made their run and the crowd got into it and it was tough to get back into the game after that.”
Despite the deficit, the Trail Blazers would make a game of it in the second half, cutting the lead to eight with 5:37 to play after a Nicolas Batum three-pointer brought the score to 91-99.
“What was working for us in the second half was at the defensive end,” said Stotts. “They didn’t have any fastbreak points the second half, we did a much better job of defensive rebounding and that allows you to play in open court, it doesn’t put as much pressure on your halfcourt offense, takes the crowd out of the game a little bit. So I thought that’s what was important in the second half.”
But the Spurs would use another momentum-crushing run in the fourth, this one of the 11-2 variety, to ensure yet another double-digit victory.
“The first two games, they went on a big run in the first half of both games,” said Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard. “Then in the second half, we come out and make those adjustments and those corrections and clean things up and then we play a much better half. We have to do a better job of taking away those second chances. Every offensive rebound they get is leading to three-pointers and they’re kicking it out to their shooters and getting them going with open threes, and that’s putting them in rhythm for the rest of the game. I thought we did a great job in the second half, but we put ourselves in too big of a hole to begin with. If we don’t do that in the first half, then who knows what type of game it is at the end.”
Portland was led by Batum, who bounced back from a terrible Game 1 performance to finish with game-high 21 points, nine rebounds and two assists in 44 minutes.
Damian Lillard ended with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists and Wesley Matthews scored 10 points in the third quarter to finish the game with 14. Will Barton, playing extended minutes due to a groin injury suffered by Mo Williams, went 5 of 5 from the field for 13 points in 12 minutes.
“Will Barton, the way (Spurs) rotation is with their perimeter guys, I thought he was a good match,” said Stotts of the decision to play Barton. “In the first half we went with our small lineup, I liked his activity. Just looking for a spark and I think he’s played well both games.”
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled to find his touch Thursday night, finishing with 16 points on 23 shots.
“I definitely wasn’t in a good rhythm tonight,” said Aldridge. “I missed two dunks and four or five layups, so if those shots go in then the whole game is different. We know that we haven’t played our best basketball, so now we have to. Going home, every guy has to play better, starting with me, and I think every guy will.”
Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard scored 12 of his 20 points in the first quarter to lead the Spurs. Both Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker scored 16 points apiece. Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw combined for 25 points off the bench.
Now the Trail Blazers will undergo the task of trying to win their first game of the semifinals Saturday night in Portland.
“They won their two home games and took care of home, and now we have the opportunity to do the same,” said Lillard. “Just going home doesn’t mean that we’re going to win the games the way that they did, just going home and getting two wins. It’s going to be tough, but we have confidence in what we can do on our home floor with our crowd being behind us, and just the way that we play in our home city.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM.