May 10, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and guard Danny Green (4) react after making a basket during the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Trail Blazers Lose Big to the Spurs in Game 3


Well, that didn’t go well.

The Portland Trail Blazers let the Spurs dig huge hole, fell ass-over-teakettle into it, and spent most of the game trying to crawl back out. After being down 20 at the half, the Blazer got within 7 in a third quarter flurry that had Rip City screaming at their televisions and stomping their feet, only to have the Spurs to rebuild their lead well into double digits that had Rip City screaming at the television and stomping their feet. The well-oiled machine that is the Spurs easily rolled over the Trail Blazers, 118-103. Portland is now down 0-3 in the best-of-7 series, and needs a win in Portland on Monday to keep their second round rolling. The Spurs need but one win in 4 tries to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

What games and series like these do is make you think: what does the team need? How can they be better? Sometimes you can look at the individual game as a microcosm to the larger issues ailing a franchise, and with that in mind we can start with bench scoring.

The Spurs’ bench scored 40 points tonight. Manu Ginobili had 14 points and 5 assists. Patty Mills had 10. Boris Diaw had 9. Those numbers, in certain situations, can be acceptable for starters, let alone your bench.

The Blazers’ bench scored 6 points tonight. 4 of those came from C.J. McCollum in garbage time. So really, the Blazers got 2 points points when it mattered. 2. Two. Too. To. Tu. Doesn’t matter how you say it, it means two points from the bench when the game was still in question.

That’s just insane. Your team is not going to win ballgames like that. Ever.

And yeah, I get that Mo Williams‘ groin is giving him a hard time and he didn’t play and blah blah blah, but when Mo Williams is your one and only savior outside of your starting five, there’s a problem. And the Blazers have a big, bench-sized problem staring them in the face.

Some of the Blazers’ current reserves (Will Barton, Thomas Robinson, C.J. McCollum) might develop nicely. It could be that the Blazers can, organically, grow their own bench. It would fit in nicely with the eco-friendly theme they’re pushing, and I’m sure the LEED-certified Moda Center would appreciate it.

But if there is any one thing you want the Blazers to do this offseason, it’s shore up the bench, which is odd given that was the number one thing the Blazers were meant to do last year, save from finding a starting center (which they did a great job with, actually).

And while the bench is a far sight better than last year, it’s just not good enough. Not for a team that wants to get to the Conference Finals.

The second area of concern is defense. How many times have we seen Damian Lillard embarrassed by whoever he is guarding? Be it Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili to Kawhi Leonard or Marco Belinelli, Lillard has figured out how to get them all open looks. That would be sick (and would mean a lot of assists) if Lillard played for the Spurs, but, of course, he doesn’t, and instead that phrase is indicative of a brilliant offensive force who can’t play a lick of defense.

But it’s not all Lillard’s fault. When the Spurs drive, the Blazers will sag off their assignments, a lot, as if pretending to contest the shot of the driver is more important than staying on your ACTUAL defensive assignment. This is leading to tons of kick-outs for open looks, and frankly is glaring enough that I am pretty surprised it wasn’t address between games 1 and 2.

The final, and most worrisome area of improvement: confidence. The Blazers just don’t seem like themselves. When the Spurs drive and Portland wants to prevent them from scoring, instead of grabbing on with two hands and pulling down in a safe but completely disruptive manner to prevent the and-1, they seem to just give the Spurs a hale and hearty pat on the back as they fly by. Unacceptable.

The Blazers have one last chance to extend this series this Monday at 7:30 p.m. PDT in Portland.




Tags: 2014 Nba Playoffs Damian Lillard Game 3 Mo Williams Portland Trail Blazers

  • Draftdog

    Well, I hate to say “I told you so”….No I really don’t. I just hate that the Blazer problems have come to fruition. All year I have been prodding, goading and insulting Stotts in an effort to bring to light the need to develop the young players sitting on the bench. I have even held up Pop’s development efforts as an example. While I am sure Stotts couldn’t care less about any fans opinion, this is one he should have heeded.

    Your article brings out both points that I have been harping on all year. The other of course is the defense. I don’t believe all the defensive problems are the players. As a matter of fact most of the defensive weakness comes from Stotts defensive system. I give you this. Trade coaches with the spurs for the entire year and this series is a toss up. As it is, the Blazers indured three blow-outs and are one game from elimination.

    In short, Stotts is miss-using and sapping the confidence from his young players, and his defense goes wanting. Olshey has made one correct draft pick, Lillard, and three good to excellent pickups through trades and free agency. It doesn’t matter this year because of course the Blazers have no picks, but he must do better than Leonard and McCollum at the 10th pick. Don’t say the jury is still out on McCollum because that is a mute point when MCW and the Greek Freak were available at 10, not to mention Steve Adams. In three years McCollum will be lucky to be a rotation player on a poor team, while MCW and Adetokoubo could be all stars and Adams will likely be a starting center. In the long run Leonard may be a better player than McCollum. Once he get away from Stotts.

    I was prepared to eat crow after the Houston series, but this series has left none of the bird on my plate. Olshey is Stotts’ biggest asset and Stotts is Olshey’s biggest mistake. And yes, tomorrow I will tell you how I really feel.

    • Brandon Goldner

      Yeah, this series literally took all of the knocks the Blazers had on them, blew them up, and turned a magnifying lens to them. And it’s ugly.

      But honestly, I think it’s kind of a good thing, like, “we knew this was a problem, and it turns out it’s a BIG problem that needs to be addressed.” I’m kind of glad the Blazers aren’t losing for any other reasons, really, because it makes it more likely that those problems will be addressed during the offseason.

      Also, 54 wins? 2nd round? That’s way ahead of schedule, especially considering the oogles of cap space the Blazers can play with AFTER next season. All in all, things aren’t too shabby!

      …but yeah this is painful to watch.

  • Draftdog

    By the way, good article Brandon.

    • Brandon Goldner