After a hard-fought, seven game first round series win over the Dallas Mavericks, fans and critics alike began to write the Spurs off. The series was looked at by most (including myself) as one of worry, as San Antonio should have easily won in four or five games.
What is clear now after two games in what was supposed to be an even tougher series is that Dallas just performed far better than expectations. Sure, San Antonio didn’t look quite like themselves for the first few games, but the one-trick pony of Dallas really surprised the world with their sudden inclusion of defense into their system.
Utilizing the Past
The tough first round full of adverse conditions and intense atmospheres, though scary at times, ended up being a Godsend for San Antonio. Riding high after a game 7 blowout, the Spurs had the mindset and confidence necessary to take on their next opponent. Enter Portland.
Portland waltzed into the next round on a high as well. After utilizing Damian Lillard’s icy cold veins to successfully oust the Houston Rockets, Rip City’s faithful welcomed in the Spurs with open arms due to their regular season success. Analysts by the plenty picked the Blazers to upset, saying the Spurs just didn’t show enough the first round and couldn’t handle this young, high-flying team.
Oh, how wrong they were.
After two games, San Antonio has taken complete control of the series, never showing even the smallest weakness. San Antonio has won these two games by an average of 20.5 points, an unheard of amount for consecutive, second round victories.
So how are they doing it? What’s the difference in this series that Portland just wasn’t prepared for? Let’s let Damian Lillard explain.
In an interview with CSNNW.com, Lillard said, “Their screens hurt. They actually set real screens. They do a great job of setting and holding screens. It wears you down. Chasing Tony Parker is one thing. Getting hit every single time is another thing. It takes a toll on you.” If that’s not the words of a completely dejected point guard, then I don’t know what is.
The Spurs just wear teams down. It’s that simple. They’re big, they’re aggressive, they’re physical, and they make sure you know that they’re there. Tony Parker is a master of weaving in and out of the defense, using his teammates as brick walls and slammed doors on his unsuspecting defender at will. With second-year guard in Damian Lillard in sole charge of guarding Parker, Portland is virtually giving San Antonio a free pass to do whatever they want offensively.
If the Spurs can score at will, then all they have to do is defend to come out victorious. It’s tough to stop the Portland machine when it’s running, but by only allowing little spurts of life, San Antonio has kept the Portland starters at bay, then attacked off the bench.
All Portland has is their starting five. If a washed up, balding Mo Williams is your best option off the bench, then you know that you have a huge problem. The onslaught of shooters that San Antonio sends out for backup have come alive in the series, growing leads and forcing Portland’s starters into longer, tiring stretches of play.
The Spurs have Portland figured out, plain and simple. Playing in the Moda Center in front of a raucous crowd will be a new beast to tackle, but unless Terry Stotts comes up with some ingenious way of slowing them down, the Spurs train will continue to roll.