I figure I might as well get my thoughts on last night. I absolutely see no reason to gripe about last night’s. Why? Because the Blazers won. At this time of the season, a win is a win is a win. And honestly…like Coup said in his re-thoughts, it’s so much better being on the other side. The past couple years, that’s been the Blazers blowing that lead while the playoff team steals a win. It’s nice to have that dirty, guilty, Lady GaGa type feeling. However, if Portland dares to try and show up at the AT&T Center with their C-game like they did last night…things will get uglier than what Lil Kim looks like when she wakes up in the morning. I guarantee it. Also, last night proved more than anything that for Portland to make any sort of noise in the post-season, they will have to have home-court advantage. So boom.
And that quest for home-court advantage continues as the Blazers end their 4-game road trip with a match-up against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs just recently learned that Manu Ginobili will be out for the season and are reacting accordingly. Do not leave the Spurs out for dead quite yet. You know better than that people. Counting San Antonio out is like taking a shot of tequila when you’re already drunk: you can hope all you want but it’s not going to end up well. As long as they have Pop, Duncan and Parker they are very dangerous. Vulnerable but dangerous. They still execute well and they still play great team basketball on both ends. Also remember that Manu hasn’t played one minute against the Blazers this year. And also go back in that memory tank of yours and recall that the Spurs defeated us in their place without Manu or Tim Duncan. Speaking of Duncan, their is a thought that he may or may not play. Pop has not decided yet. Pop wants to rest his guys for the playoffs, we know this. Recently, Duncan has tended to sit out the second half of a back-to-back. How do I know? He’s on my fantasy team and it’s caused me great frustration. He played 33 minutes last night in a win over Oklahoma City, so monitor that situation.
More than the Spurs themselves, there are numbers that scare me. 1-11 and 0-11. The first number is Portland’s record is Western Conference playoff teams. That sole win came nearly two months ago over New Orleans. Blazers Road Swag -10. That second number signifies the fact that the Blazers have lost 11 straight in San Antonio and 14 of their last 15. That last win in San Antonio came early in 2002…David Robinson was still in the league, Stephen Jackson wasn’t crazy yet, Bonzi and Sheed were still Blazers, Steve Blake had just won a National Championship and I was barely a freshman in high school. Blazer Swag in San Antonio -1,000.
(Not to mention the struggles B-Roy has had in this building. We’re not going there because while I am a realist, I am no masochist. I need a little bit of optimism with my Frosted Flakes this morning.)
Tonight’s contest is going to come down to a couple of things. The first is what kind of game the Blazers bring. It doesn’t matter who the Spurs throw out there, if Portland is going to be sloppy with the ball like they were in Memphis and turn it over 12 times in the first half…doom. If Portland is going to play without energy on the defensive end…doom. There is a certain amount of energy and execution that you have to play with to beat the top teams in the NBA. Portland can never quite stay at that level on the road, hanging around for a while before a run kind of ends it. It would be nice to go into the playoffs having gotten a big road win because the intensity will be ramped up times 1000 in a couple weeks. Back to tonight, Portland will have to focus on the Spurs “other guys”. We know what Tim Duncan and Tony Parker can do. But those two alone can’t win the game. San Antonio needs their role players to step up and take some of the pressure off of Manu’s absence. San Antonio is traditionally great at shaking off injuries. If you remember to the last game in San Antonio, Parker got help from everyone. Case in point to people stepping up: Drew Gooden scoring 20 points last night. Guys who I believe can do it? Gooden, Matt Bonner, Michael Finley and Roger Mason Jr. Those are the guys who I could see going off for 15-20. Bonner, Finley and Mason will more than likely get great looks from behind the arc. Gooden is a wild card but he just had 20 and obviously is gaining freedom and health so you never know.
Fun fact: Channing Frye is averaging 12.3 points against the Spurs this year. No clue why I put that in there but it struck me as odd. Honestly, I feel like you could win money off of a buddy by going ‘true or false’ on this fact. Someone try it, please.
Keys to success
- Make Tony Parker into a scorer or a distributor but not both. He is the guy who has absolutely killed us this season. Portland cannot let him score and distribute…it is a recipe for disaster. The numbers don’t lie, the Spurs are damn tough when teams let him do both. They are 12-3 when he gets a double-double of points and assists and 32-9 when he has 7+ assists. If he’s able to penetrate and get to the paint and score…and get open looks for the role players. No bueno.
- Play with playoff intensity. I believe that means to play the opposite of whatever that was we saw in the first 24 minutes in Memphis.
- Scoring from outside from the superstars. B-Roy traditionally struggles in this building. San Antonio has the bigs to bother LaMarcus. This is one of those games where the bench can make a huge statement. They were great last night…but they need to show up tonight. Outlaw, Rudy, Blake, Frye and Oden can make life a lot easier on the stars tonight. They are going to get good looks and are going to have to knock them down. That depth and balance needs to start showing up.
- Get off to a great start. This is important because if Portland digs themselves a hole in San Antonio it will be a lot harder to get out of. Why? San Antonio knows exactly what to do when they get a lead. They may let us crawl back in but you and I both know the Spurs have a knack for making timely buckets. It’s what they do. They are the king of going on those mini-runs to dash your hopes, get a timeout called and leave your frustrated during the commercial break. So it’s important Portland doesn’t get down big early. I don’t want to see a Bonner/Finley/Bowen three followed by a crowd eruption and some music. I just don’t.