Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the San Antonio Spurs in the third game of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Blazers have themselves an 0-2 hole to dig out of. Behind a stifling defense and a ridiculously precise offense, San Antonio straight embarrassed Portland in the first two games of this series. Ran them out of Texas. Two games, two blowouts. The Spurs machine is fully armed and operational.
But, much like the Death Star before them, the planet-exploding Spurs can be defeated. It’s going to take a young kid from the middle of nowhere (Damian Lillard, Weber State), a Wookie (Robin Lopez, natch), and a handsome rebel (*cough* yours truly) to get it done. The last time the Blazers were able to come back from an 0-2 series deficit? 1977, and we all know how that ended.
Portland will thankfully have a boost from the home arena’s support tonight. Every playoff game is obviously a must-win, but the Blazers really can’t afford to drop this one. If they go down 0-3 this series is all but over, as no team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit. If they can get a win tonight...they’ll still most likely lose the series, but at least they’ll have a puncher’s chance of advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
Welp, the Blazers will be without the services of Mo Williams tonight. He’ll be sitting with a strained groin, a huge blow for Portland’s already weak second unit. Williams is the only bench player that can create his own shot, and while often times those are maddening shots, the Blazers rely on his ball-handling skills to give Lillard a break from running the offense.
Earl Watson saw minutes in game two after Williams hurt his groin, but that is not likely to continue from here on out. There only reason Watson should be on the court is if the AARP rented out the space for a commercial shoot. (Love you, Earl!) Nicolas Batum and his point forward skills should spell Lillard. And to replace Mo’s poor shot selection and over-dribbling? Ladies and gentlemen, meet Will Barton.
Actually, the Will Barton Experiment has been pretty successful so far in round two. He’s the only Portland player that has been able to hit an outside shot with any consistency. Wait, I just read those last two sentences back and oh man the Blazers are utterly screwed.
It's nice to be back in the Moda Center for another playoff game, but I'm still not ready to move on from Lillard's game winner here last week. I haven't bathed since then for good luck. I am a popular man on press row.
11:07 - Tony Parker broke down the defense off of a pick and roll, Tim Duncan got an easy layup at the rim. 2-0 Spurs.
10:05 - The crowd wants to get into this game, but Tony Parker is keeping everyone silent. That's four straight points for Parker. The Spurs have come out firing. 6-0 Spurs.
9:04 - Tony Parker will not be denied. 10-3 Spurs.
7:22 - That's four straight for LaMarcus Aldridge, and Gregg Popovich is fired up. After Aldridge drained a ten-foot fadeaway over Tiago Splitter, Popovich immediately called time and was screaming at...the refs? Tiago? The heavens? Who knows, but man is he angry. 12-9 Spurs.
6:28 - Blazers lead! Damian Lillard put the shake and bake on Parker—dribbling circles around him, driving, then draining a fadeaway jumper over him at the free throw line. That had this crowd oohing and aahing. 13-12 Blazers.
4:59 - And once the Blazers finally got a lead? San Antonio calmly snatched it back with a 6-0 run. This Spurs team is just too good. Timeout Portland. 18-13 Spurs.
3:47 - Will Barton with his first run of the game. And, just like that, he saved a ball from falling out of bounds and gave Portland an extra possession! Now, if only the Blazers could have capitalized. Instead, Aldridge missed and the Spurs got it right back. Boo. 20-13 Spurs.
1:16 - While falling out of bounds on a rebound attempt, Tim Duncan tried to throw the ball off of LaMarcus Aldridge. It ricocheted high and off of Marco Belinelli. Blazers ball. Will Barton missed Portland's next shot attempt, but two Spurs knocked that rebound off of each other and out of bounds. Third try for the Blazers, still no luck, as Aldridge (who is 3-10 from the floor) missed a gimme at the rim. Yeah, it's going to be one of those kinds of nights. 24-17 Spurs.
0:00 - Lillard broke down the defense and dumped to a rolling Aldridge who was fouled on a dunk attempt. The ball just rolled out, this close to being a three-point play. Instead, LaMarcus received two free throws, but he was only able to convert one out of two. After one, it's going to be another uphill climb. 28-18 Spurs.
11:14 - Marco Belinelli for three. It must be the second quarter. 31-20 Spurs.
10:43 - Patty Mills for three. It must be the second quarter. 34-20 Spurs.
10:02 - An 8-0 run for the Spurs forces Portland to call time. I don't know what it is about the second quarter in this series, but Portland just hasn't had an answer for San Antonio's bench. The rate things are going, it's going to be another twenty point deficit by halftime. 36-20 Spurs.
9:40 - The Spurs played an unbelievable bout of defense, but somehow Portland was able to break it down and get Wesley Matthews an open three. Money. 36-23 Spurs.
8:08 - Danny Green for three. Portland is dead in the water. 44-25 Spurs.
6:09 - What's crazy is that the Spurs are doing this with a total bench squad. Portland has their starters back in, and they're still getting torched. The San Antonio buzzsaw looks unbeatable. 46-29 Spurs.
4:01 - Wesley Matthews with a step-back three! That's six straight for Wesley. He's keeping Portland (barely) afloat. Just get this lead down to twelve points before the half. 50-35 Spurs.
3:12 - Tony Parker stole the ball, drove the length of the court, and fell flat on his ass under his own basket with Lillard guarding him. The fans are screaming for a travel, but that was a legit fall. Parker retained possession and called time. Watching him fall might be the highlight of the game. 52-35 Spurs.
2:38 - Tony Parker for three, because why not? He's done everything else tonight. 55-35 Spurs.
2:20 - LaMarcus Aldridge was called for an offensive foul, lightly brushing Boris Diaw as he made his move. Diaw did an expert job of flopping, and Portland just doesn't have any answers. They have to start playing with a sense of urgency. Their season is on the line. Muck this game up, start dishing some hard fouls. 55-35 Spurs.
1:28 - Tony Parker is a one man wrecking crew, demolishing Portland's season basket by crushing basket. 60-38 Spurs.
0:04 - Portland has one more chance before the half to get some points on the board. Please. Anything. 60-40 Spurs.
0:00 - Nope, Will Barton had his pocket picked crossing half-court. Portland will enter the second half down by twenty once again. The Blazers are an overmatched, flailing mess. 60-40 Spurs.
11:35 - Nicolas Batum with the three to start the quarter. Time to start chipping away at this lead. 60-43 Spurs.
10:06 - Tony Parker is an unstoppable machine. The Blazers are doing all they can to slow him down, but with two hands in his face, Parker was still able to sink a jumper. He cannot be guarded. 64-45 Spurs.
9:09 - Parker missed! Batum drained a three! Portland looks like a completely different team on offense right now. Things are on the up and up, and this crowd is finally (finally!) fired up. 64-52 Spurs.
8:21 - Batum with the three-quarter length outlet pass to a streaking Matthews. It is LOUD in here. 64-54 Spurs.
7:47 - There's that playoff intensity. There's that fire. The Blazers and the crowd are feeding off each other right now, and it's a beautiful thing to watch. 64-55 Spurs.
6:23 - The Spurs answered back with four points, but Batum just drained a triple to get Portland right back into it. This finally feels like a game where Portland might just be able to get over the hump. 68-60 Spurs.
4:18 - The Blazers are doing an excellent job of getting stops—they're being helped by Tony Parker, who has suddenly turned back into a pumpkin and can't hit anything—but they just can't string together multiple makes on the offensive end. If a couple of those missed threes had dropped, this place would be on fire right now. 72-60 Spurs.
2:59 - Wesley Matthews came from out of nowhere to steal a pass on a Spurs fast break, an amazing hustle play. On the other end, LaMarcus was able to pick up a three-point play. It's back to within single digits! 74-65 Spurs.
2:18 - Ooof, a rough call goes against the Blazers, and Manu Ginobili picked up a late whistle on a missed layup. The Blazers were already running down the court the other way when the foul was called. 78-67 Spurs.
1:50 - The refs swallowed their whistle on what seemed to be a moving Tiago Splitter screen at half court, then called Thomas Robinson for an off the ball foul on a Patty Mills made basket. The crowd is letting the refs know that they suck. 81-69 Spurs.
0:00 - The Blazers finished the quarter with Earl Watson, Victor Claver, and Will Barton on the floor. And, as you would expect, the Spurs were able to extend their lead. Portland is going to need one hell of a push to pull this one out. 83-69 Spurs.
11:37 - Patty Mills for three, and the hole is now that much bigger. 86-69 Spurs.
10:44 - So far both Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge both have three-point plays this quarter, and the Spurs already have three team fouls. 86-77-Spurs.
10:41 - Off of Aldridge's made free throw, Batum stole the inbounds pass! Basket! 88-77 Spurs.
9:28 - Portland's offense is doing its job. They now just need to get some stops. 93-81 Spurs.
7:56 - Lillard jacked up a wild three, and the resulting break led to a Tony Parker three-point play. Time is running out for the Blazers. 100-81 Spurs.
7:43 - Another Portland miss, another three-point play opportunity for San Antonio, this time from Kawhi Leonard. Fans are streaming for the exits. Can Portland just forfeit game four now? 102-81 Spurs.
6:13 - Too little, too late, but that's an 8-0 run for the Blazers after that last San Antonio timeout. 103-89 Spurs.
5:46 - Make that a 10-0 run. There is still a tiny sliver of hope? 103-91 Spurs.
5:02 - Abandon all hope! Resistance is futile! 107-91 Spurs.
4:16 - I ain't even mad at ya, Blazers. The Spurs are playing some of the best basketball I've ever seen. We'll always have round one. 107-93 Spurs.
2:49 - No team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit. This Portland team isn't the team to make that kind of history. They're good, better than they've shown in this series, but damn if the Spurs don't have their number. 114-97 Spurs.
1:36 - It's Meyers Leonard time. Just what this arena has been waiting for. 116-99 Spurs.
FINAL: 118-103 Spurs. One more home game, Portland fans. If the Spurs don't sweep it outright, they'll almost certainly get the "gentlemen's sweep" and win game five in San Antonio. That means (without some sort of amazing heroics) there's only one more time to come and cheer the hell out of this team in the Moda Center. It has been an amazing year, this series be damned.