After losing the first two games on the road, the Portland Trail Blazers will fight to stay alive against the San Antonio Spurs as the series shifts back to Portland tonight. Game 3 will hopefully bring new life to the Trail Blazers as they play in front of a raucous Moda Center crowd. The Spurs are dialed in and every aspect of the game is coming to them with ease. It will take a perfect game from the Trail Blazers in order to jump back in this series.
The Trail Blazers were able to hang with the Spurs through the first quarter in Game 2, but could not recover from a second quarter beat down. The Spurs outscored the Trail Blazers 41-25 in the second quarter – 36 percent of their total score. If one thing doesn’t kill you, the next thing will. That should be the slogan from Thursday night.
Through greater effort on the defensive side, the Trail Blazers were able to hold Tony Parker and Tim Duncan in check. After finishing with 33 points in game 1, Parker had 16 points on 8-19 shooting, and Duncan only put in 10 points in 35 minutes of action. The problem for the Trail Blazers came from a balanced Spurs attack. Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points, Tiago Splitter had 10, Manu Ginobili had 16, Marco Belinelli had 13, and Boris Diaw finished with 12 points. The entire Spurs active roster saw the court and there was not a single negative +/- for any player. The only player for the Trail Blazers to record a positive +/- was Thomas Robinson who had a +10.
The Trail Blazers know they can beat the Spurs. They split the regular season series and seem to match-up against them well. This Spurs team is on a completely different level. They were pushed to seven games in the first round but they are definitely not the same team they were a week ago. That should scare all of the passionate fans of Rip City. The Trail Blazers must win game 3 if they hope to have an outside chance of making this series competitive.
Things To Watch For
Can Terry Stotts Solve The Trail Blazers Problems?
We know what the Trail Blazers need in order to get back into this series: better defense, higher shooting percentage, and some big time performances from their All-Stars. The problem is they haven’t been able to get any of those things to happen. LaMarcus Aldridge did have 32 points in game 1, but he only shot 48 percent from the field. Damian Lillard has yet to score more than 19 points after dismantling the Spurs in the regular season. In game 1, the Trail Blazers shot 37.8 percent as a team and followed it up with a 43 percent effort in game 2. Meanwhile, the Spurs are have shot 50.6 percent and 53.3 percent. So what gives? How were the Trail Blazers able to beat the Spurs twice in the regular season? Stotts needs to take a step back from the negative and find a way to make it into a positive.
Who Will Replace Mo Williams?
Williams had the best production of any reserve player throughout the season. He is a score-first veteran who can create his own shot and provide a lift off the bench. In this series, Williams has been a huge disappointment. In game 1, Williams played 28 minutes and only scored 6 points on 3-11 shooting. He has been affected by a lingering groin injury which caused him to play only nine minutes in game 2. If Williams is not able to play, who will step into his role? Dorell Wright is a scorer but normally comes in for Nicolas Batum. Robinson has been a spark off the bench in this series but can’t play Williams’ position. My vote would be for Will Barton to see more playing time. He had nine points in eight minutes in game 1 and was a perfect 5-5 for 13 points in game 2. C.J. McCollum is not ready and Earl Watson can’t keep up. Barton is one of my favorite players to watch and could have a big impact on game 3. If Stotts calls on him, we’ll see if he’s ready to step up into a bigger role.
Can The Trail Blazers Contest Shots?
The Spurs have been making all of their shots. Long shots, close shots, you name it and it’s probably going in. One stat that boggles my mind is the number of uncontested jump shots the Trail Blazers are giving up. A whole 45 percent of the Spurs jump shots have gone uncontested through the first two games. They are averaging 58 points per game on jump shots alone and shooting 50.5 percent. Those numbers are way too high and must be fixed. The lack of defensive intensity has crippled the Trail Blazers ability to close out on jump shooters. The Spurs have been able to get out in transition and score while the Trail Blazers lag behind. Portland must hustle back on defense and attempt to contest every jump shot taken.