Summing it up
It was like Groundhog Day at the Moda Center on Saturday. Duplicating the storyline from Games 1 and 2, the Spurs raced out of a huge first-half lead (20 points), endured a sluggish third quarter (Blazers climbed within seven) and then won going away (took largest lead at 23 in fourth). The only major difference was the final score, 118-103, giving the Spurs a historically insurmountable 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
“We just wanted to have a good start, take care of the ball and make sure we play good defense like we did in the second half at home (in Game 2),” said Tony Parker, who scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the first half. “We just wanted to continue to play good basketball.”
Did the Spurs ever. Their second-half lull aside, the Spurs trailed by a grand total of one point for 17 seconds. When the lead slipped to seven, prodding the home crowd from its slumber into a deafening roar, the Spurs steadily rebuilt their lead and finally knocked the Blazers out with a 10-0 run featuring three-point plays by Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Portland coach Terry Stotts promised his team would fight Monday in Game 4. But at this point, it seems painfully obvious that the Blazers simply don’t have any answer for the Spurs.
Player of the game
Thanks to injuries, fatigue and the exacting minute management of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, MVP-caliber Parker has been a rare sight in his 12th NBA season. Until the postseason, that is, where Parker seems to be getting stronger by the game. He was virtually flawless on Saturday, dominating his matchup with Damian Lillard (21 points, 7 for 21 shooting) yet again. He’s now averaging 26 points and 8.3 assists while shooting 52.4 percent in a series the Blazers have used three different defenders, but to no avail.
“He got us out of the gates,” Tim Duncan said. “He continues to shoot the ball really well. he’s getting to his spots, making great decisions for our offense and our team. When the shot is there he’s taking it and knocking it out. He’s been unbelievable for us and obviously been the driving force of this entire series for us. We’ll continue to ride him and hopefully we can close this thing out.”
The turning point
The Blazers would make a game of it in the second half. But after falling behind huge early yet again, there was simply too much ground to overcome, even as their rabid home crowd urged them on. The Spurs led by 10 after one, then tacked on another 10 in the second quarter. In the series, they are now plus 65 in the first half, and plus 39 in the second quarter, consistently building a huge cushion that even the potent Blazers have been unable to overcome.
“We play hard and compete in the second half, but the hole is too big,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We made it interesting in the second half, but against San Antonio, if you put your guard down they take advantage of it. They’re good because they have a lot of options. Everybody is ready. Everybody is a threat. We’re playing a championship-caliber team.”
News, notes and observation
* NBA teams have an all-time series record of 108-0 lead when taking a 3-0 lead.
* Game 7 against Dallas seems to have lit a fire under the Spurs. Including that do-or-die victory, they’ve won their past four games by an average of nearly 20 points, including all three series meetings with a Portland team that had won 13 of the previous 19.
“(Dallas) played great basketball,” Parker said. “Everybody was playing very well on that team and they made it hard on us. And then Game 7, you have to show up because if not, the season is over. I think we learned from it and right now so far, we’re playing good.”
* The struggles of Portland’s superstars continued. Neither LaMarcus Aldrdige nor Damian Lillard made much of a difference in Game 3, shooting a combined 16 for 44 with 21 points apiece. For the series, they’re shooting 38 and 37.5 percent, respectively.
* The bench continued to be a massive advantage for the Spurs, who outscored the Blazers’ reserves 40-6 in the absence of sixth man Mo Williams (groin). They are now outscoring Portland 140-43 off the bench in the series. Combined with a plus-19.5 edge against Portland’s starters per 100 possession, the Spurs are basically crushing any unit the Blazers puts on the court.
Summing it up