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The Portland Problem Persists

By Jeff Koch on January 18, 2014.

Portland 109, San Antonio 100

I didn’t get to watch this game, nor will I get to. The irony is not lost on me that, as a Spurs fan living in Portland, the only games I can’t watch of my beloved team in this era of internet ubiquity are against my hometown team. Blackout restrictions with NBA League Pass. So read with that knowledge at hand.

Perhaps I’m glad I didn’t watch the game. I’m sure it would have left me stressed, frustrated, angry, and worried. While the game sounded enjoyable on its face (Ginobili goes off in the 3rd quarter! Pop is ejected, most likely intentionally!), the Spurs have a real grown Portland Problem.

Truthfully, they’ve had this problem for years. The Blazers have owned us for 5-6 years. The Blazers just haven’t been good enough for this problem to rear its head in any meaningful games (read: the playoffs). But now the Blazers are for real, and they aren’t going anywhere. And while two hard-fought losses does not a catastrophe make, it’s never too early to spin this forward to the playoffs and, more importantly, seeding.

There are two teams in the West that really give the Spurs match-up problems: the Thunder and the Blazers. As it sits today, the Spurs, Blazers, and Thunder are 1-2-3 in the West, respectively. The #1 seed has never looked so important. In order to avoid facing one of these two teams in the second round (and to avoid the possibility of having to beat both of them en route to the Finals), the Spurs need to secure that #1 seed. The rest of the West is tough, for sure, but OKC and Portland are at once both the best of the West and the worst match-ups for San Antonio. Bad combination.

I know that Pop and the team doesn’t care about seeding, and health is more important. True, health is more important. But the team can go after that top seed AND continue to focus on health. Hell, they already are. The Spurs are the only team that plays their top players such few minutes and continue to win at a high clip. But the window is there. After a scorching hot start the Blazers have cooled off a bit; with the Westbrook injury, the Thunder will fall back a bit in the coming months. The Spurs have every opportunity to seize control of the West.

In a 3-team jumble at the top, the #1 seed has never looked so good.

I know the Spurs have it in them to beat either team in a seven game series. But I’d rather wait until late May to find out; and I’d rather only have to beat one of them.

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