Game 2 between the Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs tips tonight at 6:30 p.m. PDT in the AT&T Center. The Trail Blazers will attempt to bounce back after being embarrassed in game 1. The Spurs dominated the entire first game en route to a 116-92 victory where they never trailed. There will be adjustments made on both sides but the pressure to perform rests on the shoulders of the young Trail Blazers.
The Trail Blazers went from elated to deflated. There was magic in the air last Friday that caused a marvelous high in Portland. They had finally advanced to the second round after a 14 year drought and it came on a buzzer-beater shot from their rising star. It was time to celebrate in the streets. Tuesday night was a wake up call; this team hasn’t accomplished anything yet. I’ll admit I was happy just to advance but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t initially like the match-up with the Spurs.
The Spurs are a championship caliber team. It seems like we can say that every year. This year it seems to be especially true as they are healthy and ready for another ring. Thanks to some incredible roster depth, the Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili averaged fewer than 30 minutes of playing time per game during the regular season. They are fresh and that should scare everyone who has to face them.
Tonight should be a much more competitive game. The Trail Blazers will make the needed adjustments to counter the Spurs defensive presence. I doubt the Spurs will shoot as well as they did in game 1 (51 percent) and the Trail Blazers should start making those point blank shots. The Trail Blazers will need much more than LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard if they are to win. The Spurs are hot and could be more dangerous if Ginobili finds some rhythm tonight after his poor outing in game 1 where he posted two points on 0-6 shooting.
Things To Watch For
Will The Trail Blazers Be Able To Adjust?
The Spurs are nothing like the Houston Rockets. The Trail Blazers were able to capitalize on weak defense from the Rockets in the first round. In that series, they were able to find the open man for uncontested 3-pointers and get out in transition after a Rockets miss. This series will be much different and Tuesday’s game proved that. The Spurs are tenacious on defense and match-up well against the Trail Blazers. Tiago Splitter had another impressive game on defense, as he was able to keep Aldridge in check. Adjustments must be made that help create open looks for Aldridge. There are other areas that need remedied like ball movement and bench production. The Trail Blazers set a new franchise low in assists with nine and also committed 20 turnovers. When the Trail Blazers swing the ball, good things happen. The bench was once again outperformed by their opponent. 18 total points off the Trail Blazers’ bench versus 50 points from the Spurs bench. There are many things that need to change in order for Portland head back home with a 1-1 split.
Can Damian Lillard Provide Another Magical Moment?
Tuesday night was the first time Damian Lillard failed to score at least 20 points against the Spurs in his career. Lillard’s career marks against the Spurs are some of his greatest. He has averaged 26.3 points in seven games against the Spurs, which is second only to his 26.8 points mark in four games against the Pacers. There is no doubt that Lillard has his hands full on defense with Tony Parker. Parker almost single-handedly beat down the Trail Blazers on Tuesday as he finished with a game-high 33 points. On offense, Lillard shouldn’t have a problem. He is much quicker and more explosive than Parker or Patty Mills. For the Blazers to win, Lillard will need to find a way to hit from the outside but more importantly he will need to drive and dish or finish at the rim.
Do The Trail Blazers Have Enough Depth?
Portland improved their depth in the off-season with the signings of Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, and Dorell Wright. Nevertheless, their bench is still the weakest part of their team. When you face a team like the Spurs who are able to bring in players like Ginobili, Mills, Marco Belinelli, and Boris Diaw, you realize how much your bench is lacking. The Trail Blazers essentially went six deep in game 1. Mo Williams was the only reserve that played more than 10 minutes. The rest of the bench received garbage time after the white flag had been waved. It’s vital for the starting five to keep pace with the Spurs starting five. Once the teams go to the reserves, it would be nice if the Trail Blazers bench didn’t have to climb out of a gigantic hole. Thomas Robinson has been able to provide a little bit of a spark off the bench but the team has not been able to capitalize on his efforts. Is there enough support to aid the starting five? That question needs to be answered now or it will need to be brought up in off-season discussions sooner rather than later.