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Smelling Like Roses

By Jeff Koch on May 7, 2014.

Portland 92, San Antonio 116
San Antonio leads series 1-0

That couldn’t have started any better.

After finally coming alive in Game 7 against the Mavs, the Spurs picked up right where they left off, just annihilating the Blazers in Game 1 in all areas of the game. The Spurs offensive machine was humming, the defense was as good as I’ve seen all season, and Portland just looked completely unprepared for this team and this round of the Playoffs.

I expect better games from the Blazers from here on out. But I did think this would be a possibility, which is partly why I felt so much better coming into this series than I did against the Mavs. The Blazers are more talented, but the Mavs had more playoff experience and more understanding of what an all out fight each game and each possession of the post-season is. The Blazers, on the other hand, are a very young and playoff inexperienced team. (As noted on the telecast, The Blazers as a franchise have played the same number of playoff games as Tim Duncan.) They looked great against Houston, but a step up in intensity and quality was bound to throw them off. Plus, there’s a good chance they have a ‘happy to be here’ vibe about them; the season is already a success, and something to grow on moving forward.

And while I joked about it on twitter a little bit, it’s actually quite serious: The Spurs ain’t the Rockets. The step up in both offensive and defensive intensity was bound to cause fits for the Blazers. It took them an entire half to even realize what was going on. As that article illustrates, the Rockets only contested slightly less than 50% of all the Blazers shots; The Spurs got to about 75% of them last night.

San Antonio punched Portland in the mouth, and the Blazers were stunned. But The Spurs don’t get to carry those 24 points with them. I expect a hungry and focused Blazers team tomorrow night.

The way the Spurs are playing, though, it might not matter. Holy hell was that a near-perfect Spurs performance. The offense begins and ends with Parker, and when he’s running like that, the machine is in full destroy mode. He can just so thoroughly break down a defense by himself, and it allows every other player’s game to elevate. When Parker is on, nobody else really has to play outside of their comfort zone. Yes, he can get to the rim and score in the paint better than most big men. But often times he breaks down the D, passes out, and the ball and the players just start zipping around. It might take 5 or 10 seconds, but a wide open shot always comes, and it probably almost always started with Parker’s action.

The Spurs just beat the Blazers by 24 with Duncan playing 24 minutes and Manu only playing 18. That is bonkers.

What makes this offense special, though, is the 3-point shooting. Dallas knew this. I’ve said it all year, but this team just looks different when the 3-point shots are falling. This is the idea the Mavs bet on, and it almost paid off. There’s a reason Marco, Patty, and Danny barely saw daylight in the first round. Last night, all of our shooters got the shots they wanted, and it kind of looked like the regular season again. The big news was Marco, obviously. But Patty got to his spots and did his things. Kawhi and Danny both got open looks.

More impressive than the O was the D. Tiago continued his tear of individual defensive greatness, pestering Aldridge into a horrible first half. He got going in the second half, but it was pretty empty and quiet. (And often without Splitter on him.) Besides, I think part of the defensive plan is to bait Aldridge and Lillard to try and do more and take on more offensive load, freezing out the role players. The Spurs are especially scary when Batum, Matthews, Lopez, and Mo Williams all have it going. The Spurs effectively shut them all down.

I was also particularly impressed with the individual defensive performances of players like Parker and Belinelli and Patty. They took the challenge to heart and played their butts off. You know that’s all Pop ever wants.

Game 2 will be interesting. Portland can make adjustments, but really, they just need to show up and step up and see if they can compete with this locked-in Spurs team. Thursday night is about pride and desire. For both teams. For all the greatness we saw in Game 1, a Game 2 loss negates it all for the Spurs. If the Spurs cruise to another win, it might effectively rattle the Blazers right out of this series. Either way, I expect a hard fought game.

This is what we live for.

Go Spurs Go.

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