Trail Blazers, Spurs: NBA Playoffs Game 5 Preview


May 12, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum (88) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a basket against the San Antonio Spurs in the second half of game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers are still alive in their Western Conference Semifinals series against the San Antonio Spurs. Game 4 featured a much more aggressive and energetic Trail Blazers team. They were rewarded with their first win in the series which saved them from being swept by the Spurs. The San Antonio Spurs return home for tonight’s game and will try to send the Trail Blazers into the off-season for the second straight game.

Monday night’s win was the Trail Blazers first playoff victory over the Spurs since 1993. It must feel good to get that monkey off of their back. History now sides with the Trail Blazers as the last time they fell behind 3-0 in a playoff series, they went on to win the next three games and forced a game 7 (2003 against the Mavericks). This time around it will be much more difficult as the Spurs have Game 5 at home and will try for the knock out punch.

The Spurs played uncharacteristically in game 4. Tony Parker had been annihilating the Trail Blazers through the first three games yet struggled on Monday. Much of that can be attributed to the terrific defensive efforts of Nicolas Batum. Parker will most likely have a much better game tonight but I imagine Batum will be assigned to him all game long, so Parker will be working for his points. The Spurs do have the upper hand in one aspect: playing time. Not a single Spurs starter recorded more than 27 minutes in Monday’s game whereas every Trail Blazers starter played 32 minutes or more. The Spurs will be rested and ready to go at home.

Things To Watch For

Nicolas Batum vs. Tony Parker

I am confident that this will be the match-up to watch. Like most NBA teams, the Spurs go as their point guard goes. The point guard position is vital in today’s NBA as they are the floor generals who control and operate the offense. Batum has always made it clear that Parker is both a mentor and a friend. In game 4, the student outperformed the teacher. Parker averaged 26 points and eight assists through the first three games of this series. On Monday night, Batum was the only player to guard Parker and he held him to 14 points and one assist. Batum has been the Trail Blazers best player in this series and almost recorded a triple-double for the second straight game as he finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists. Let’s see which Frenchman has the better performance tonight.

Will Barton

I’m a huge Barton fan and Monday night, Barton showed a lot of his potential. Mo Williams has been out the past two games due to a groin injury and Barton has been his replacement. In game 3, Barton had his first chance to play his fill-in role and failed miserably, going 0-2 from the field and finishing with zero points. Through three games, he had not played more than 12 minutes off the bench. Game 4 was a completely different story as Barton put in 30 minutes of play. He was also much more productive finishing with a playoff career-high 17 points on 7-13 shooting. Williams will most likely be questionable for tonight’s game (he did work out yesterday and plans to play) and it would be great if Barton could continue to play with energy and be effective once again.

Have The Trail Blazers Turned The Corner?

Winning one game in a seven game series doesn’t mean anything. The Trail Blazers are still staring elimination in the face and could have their season end tonight. They played loose and confident in game 4 and must do the same tonight. Can that first win propel this team to a consecutive victory? The team believes so. Batum said after the game, “Why not us?”  Wesley Matthews said, “We are confident. Someone has to make history at some time. Might as well be us.” Robin Lopez said about extending the series, “Yeah, why not? I don’t have anything better to do.” This team finally feels like they belong in the same building as the Spurs. Let’s hope it translates on the floor tonight and they can bring one more game back to the fans in Portland.

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