Summing it up
It was a moment the Spurs have been preparing for all season: Tony Parker left for good after just one quarter with what is believed to be a minor hamstring injury, and they didn’t blink. Indeed, they played even better without their MVP through the first three games of the Western Conference semifinals, scoring 85 points in the three frames after he left to crush the Blazers 104-82 at the AT&T Center and complete a 4-1 gentleman’s sweep.
As usual, it was a team effort. Kawhi Leonard was the best-all around player on the court with 22 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Danny Green matched his entire series scoring total with 22. And Patty Mills had his first real “Patrick Thrills” outing of the postseason with 18 points in 25 minutes in Parker’s stead. Add it all up, and Portland — again — simply had no answer for the Spurs.
“It definitely shows us the quality of basketball we have to get to be on their level or be one of these elite teams to win a championship,” said Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge, who completed a solid but unspectacular (for him) series with 21 points and 10 rebounds. “They showed us how to move the ball around. They made five to six passes every possession. It makes your defense tired and makes guys make mistakes. It showed us where we are trying to go.”
Said Leonard, “We knew we could win the game tonight, even though Tony went out. We know if we pass the ball, move around and have pace we can get the shot we want. And we have confidence in each other that we can make the shot.”
Player of the game
Leonard enjoyed the first podium game of his bright young career. As usual, he was nonplussed with the experience. “I don’t feel no certain way about it,” he said. “Tim (Duncan) chose me to come up here.” Ah, the benefits of seniority. But Leonard wasn’t just doing dirty work for his captain. He was hugely deserving after becoming the first Spur to reach his statistical thresholds since Johnny Moore in 1983 — eight years before he was born. Leonard did it with a blend of aggression and efficiency, showing no hesitation on a series of pull-up jumpers while making his usual handful of open-court plays.
Summing it up