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Can’t Shake It

By Jeff Koch on March 8, 2013.

Portland TrailBlazers 136, San Antonio Spurs 106
48-15 overall, 25-4 home

The story of the night will most likely be (and probably should be) Damian Lillard. He was a man possessed in the second half, seemingly playing in an empty gym, impervious to any “defense” or the occasional “missed shot”. If I didn’t hate losing to the Blazers so badly (a team that just owns us these last few years, no matter their record), I probably would have enjoyed the performance.

But make no mistake: Lillard’s performance is what turned the loss into a blow-out. But the game was lost well before he went nova. The game was lost in the first half, when the Blazers seized control about midway through the second quarter; the game was lost by a lack of energy and a lack of execution on offense. When you surrender 136 points to a team, you’d probably assume that it was defense that did you in. The defense wasn’t great, but more often than not, it was just the Blazers hitting contested shots and catching fire as a team. Hickson was unstoppable in the first half; Lillard picked it up in the second half. Aldridge–the prototypical player that always gives the Spurs fits–was a beast throughout. Wesley Matthews hit several huge and timely 3s; back-up PG Eric Maynor hit huge shots. They just couldn’t miss, regardless of the defense. 61.6% overall. For the game. As a team. That’s insane.

But our offense is usually up to the task of staying in shoot outs. With Parker down, the refrain was: ball movement, player movement, trust the system. Tonight, none of those things happened. We played too much one-on-one. We dribbled too much. We didn’t trust the system. We missed open passes that could have led to wide open shots. We passed into traffic, into lanes that didn’t exist, turning the ball over. We didn’t play the type of basketball needed to win games in the absence of Tony Parker.

Manu in particular played horribly tonight. “Bad” Manu, if you will. Careless with the ball, too many attempts at “hero” shots, just a bit out of control. Hey, if we get 2-3 incredible games from him for every stinker, we can probably live with that, especially once Parker comes back.

Ironically, our best line-up of the night was Jackson, Green, Leonard, Splitter, and Bonner (when we made the tiniest of pushes in the fourth quarter). This line-up doesn’t feature one traditional ball handler or playmaker. They passed, they moved, and they actually put together some decent offensive possessions. They played within themselves.

Big picture, the loss tonight drops the Spurs from the top of the overall standings, as Miami takes over possession of best record in the league. And with the Thunder winning in Charlotte, the race at the top of the West grows even tighter, with OKC now jus 1.5 games behind, coming into San Antonio Monday night for a huge game.

Let’s hope the tonight’s beating will sharpen the focus for Monday’s game.

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