Game 24 Recap: Spurs 95, Blazers 78

Wesley Matthews' offense wasn't enough to knock out the league's best team. Photo courtesy of the AP.

Wesley Matthews' offense wasn't enough to knock off the league's top team. Photo courtesy of the AP.

Let’s be honest. San Antonio is a great team, and at this point Portland is not. Even with a four-game win streak, and some truly inspirational play from the Blazers in their last few outings, this needed to be a perfect game from Portland if they wanted to get out with a win. This was far from a perfect game.

San Antonio has a lot of tools, and Sunday many of them weren’t even online. Portland has only a few tools, and if they all aren’t online, they won’t be winning a whole lot of games in the future. The Blazers leaned heavily once again on Brandon Roy, and relied almost entirely on jump shots. In recent games, in which Portland has been victorious, jump shots have been going down, and for better or for worse Brandon hasn’t destroyed the flow of the Blazers’ offense. Sunday Brandon was inconsistent, and the shots just weren’t there. The Spurs built an early lead, and despite a few short bursts of offense from Portland, didn’t let up.

The Blazers have won at least two of their last four on the defensive end. Portland’s defense was on-again off-again Sunday. They were able to produce some stops, and keep San Antonio from running away early, but when the defense lagged, so too did the offense. The Blazers don’t need to try and out-score their opponents, that isn’t going to happen many nights, but they have to maintain their defensive intensity when the shots aren’t going down. Twice in the third quarter Portland cut San Antonio’s lead to single digits. Each time, the Spurs responded with a string of buckets, matched by a run of missed shots by the Blazers. Portland didn’t play well, even during those stretches when the game was close, but a few more stops and minus the lapses on D that helped to keep the home team’s lead intact, this game very well could have gone in the Blazers’ favor.

Having said that, though, Portland can’t afford to drop too many more games in this manner. Following up big wins with stagnant losses isn’t how the Blazers are going to gain traction in the tough-as-nails Western Conference. Four straight wins put Portland a single game over five-hundred. This loss drops them back to even. With a tough game on Monday and an even tougher game at Dallas on Wednesday, for all the good done by two wins against Phoenix and one against Orlando, the Blazers could still be on the wrong side of the wins column following this road trip. With the way the NBA schedule works, Portland needs to win a lot of games to get back on the right track. Sunday was an opportunity missed.

The sting of Sunday’s loss is lightened some by the way Portland has responded to serious adversity in the last week and change, but the amount of time the Blazers can afford to take off is severely limited. Sunday’s wasn’t the worst loss of the season, and Monday’s game will be a strong indicator of how Portland is going to respond to losing now that they’ve won a few big games, but regardless of what happens going forward, the Blazers need to play better across the board.

Memphis on Monday. Portland has won there already once this season, and the Blazers have the weapons to beat the Grizzlies, but if Portland falls down on defense, and losses focus for stretches on offense, the Blazers could be back to losing more than they’re winning. As it gets deeper and deeper into the season, matching six loses with four wins is not equals to a whole lot of success.

I’ll keep my thoughts brief:

  • San Antonio played much of the game as if they were the best team in the league. Because as of right now they are the best team in the league. The Spurs play like a well-oiled machine. They move the ball well, play almost entirely to their strengths, and they get the little things done on both ends of the floor. San Antonio plays defense for every tick of the 24-second clock, they jam the lane, and they close out hard on the mid-range jump shooters. They  lack only for strong defense on three-point shooters. Portland could have taken advantage of that, but didn’t. The Blazers 5-of-15 from deep was far from enough to bridge the gap.
  • Manu Ginobilli is in the midst of a great early-season run, as if that’s some kind of news, and he provides the Spurs with the exact kind of offense that Portland desperately needs. He attacks the rim and either gets the basket, or the foul, or sometimes both. His jumper, which absolutely cannot be slept on, gives him two deadly weapons, and makes him one of the most versatile wing players in the game. Even without big nights from Tim Duncan or Richard Jefferson, San Antonio can get a long way simply on the back of Manu.
  • Along with Manu, San Antonio’s point-guards are pretty stellar. Tony Parker and George Hill, who at this point is the Spurs new top sixth-man, provided plenty of scoring punch. Compared with San Antonio’s back-court, Portland looked slightly out classed. Seven points from Andre Miller and nine points from B Roy, were not enough to match 14 from Parker and 22 points from Hill.
  • Portland really struggled Sunday getting offense from its bench. The way that the Blazers’ starters are coming together is a positive sign, Portland’s bench however is going in the opposite direct. There’s something good here though. If Portland is going to make a move to try and make this team better, as opposed to blowing the whole thing up, they might have their best luck trying to go after a contributor that can come off the bench. They’re not going to get value for any of their starters, meaning they’re not going to be able to trade Roy straight up for an All-Star caliber player, but they could get closer to value trading a bench player for another bench player. This might mean putting together a package that includes Nicolas Batum or Rudy Fernandez. Although that’s going to be an unpopular decision in the eyes of the fan-base, if Portland keeps playing strong on defense and offense, and can maintain their composure going forward, bringing in a scorer to come off the bench could be the right move. Nic and Rudy have both struggled to be consistent so far this season. Like the team, their isn’t a ton of time left to get things straight with these guys. Rudy and Nic were a combined 3-0f-14, contributing only eight points. They have to get better.

Sarge and his troops were unable to catch a break, snapping their four game win streak. Photo courtesy of the AP.

Box Score

Standings

Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

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