Portland Trail Blazers 100, San Antonio Spurs 92: The youngins keep it close, but fall short in the end

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AT&T CENTER – I wanted to do everything I could not to mention who played, and didn’t play, in my recap tonight. Unfortunately, it was the biggest factor in the game and has to be acknowledged.

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were both expected not to play with injury. That wasn’t a surprise at all. But a little over an hour before game time, news came that Tony Parker and Antonio McDyess would join Duncan and Manu in street clothes.

The gaping holes in the rotation vacated by the big three and Dice left the Spurs lacking significant firepower on both the offensive and defensive ends. And yet the Spurs still scored 92 points, and put in their best quarter of defense of the season, statistically speaking, in holding the Blazers to nine points in the third quarter.

Where the Spurs really missed four of their starters was in the conditioning department. While the players the Spurs did have available kept them in the game and had them in a position to win, the missing pieces — those who normally occupy the bulk of the minutes — left the others to fatigue as the game neared the end.

A 15-1 run for Portland from the 9:18 mark to the 2:02 point turned a 8-point Spurs lead into a 6-point deficit.

When asked after the game if he thought the team got tired, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich admitted that they did, but refused to acknowledge that as the reason for the dry stretch.

“They haven’t played that much, but they sure didn’t play like they were tired,” Coach Pop said.

Instead, he simply felt the team didn’t make shots, simple as that.

“It’s a game that happens to everybody from time-to-time,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t go down.”

And while he’ll say publicly that missing shots was a big reason for the loss. I’m hard-pressed to believe that’s what he thinks when he looks at the film from the game.

But that the Spurs were so close in this game speaks to the effort and energy level provided by those in uniform. From the outset, the Spurs were active on the defensive end and worked hard. It didn’t produce results in the box score, as the Spurs gave up 58 points on 60% from the floor.

But it finally manifested itself in the third quarter when San Antonio held Portland to just nine points, a season low for points in a quarter by a Spurs opponent.

George Hill led the Spurs with 27 points, but was forced to play 38 minutes and eventually fouled out late in the game. Gary Neal was the opposite of Hill, offensively. Neal shot 3-14 in the game for eight points, including a depressing 2-10 in the fourth quarter.

A gold star goes to Tiago Splitter who, in addition to his 14 points and nine rebounds, helped limit LaMarcus Aldridge to just nine points and three rebounds in 37 minutes of action. Splitter did well to stay in front of Aldridge on the perimeter and put a body on him down low.

Splitter looks like he’s getting closer and closer to earning some minutes in the playoff rotation. Hopefully.

  • betsyduncan

    Right, Colin. Kinda herky-jerky and not real smooth.

  • Spur4Life

    Any positive info on any of the injuries?
    Thanks fellas

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Hobson13 and others regarding RJ

    “I think it’s a bit of both. I don’t think the current offensive system is conducive for him putting up good numbers, but I still think he should take the initiative to freelance a bit. Manu does. Besides, what would Pop really say if RJ was more aggressive and made good plays for the rest of the team? I don’t think he could say much if he were to help out Manu and Tony more.”

    The thing is RJ is not a play-maker…. he is a finisher…… he needs people to pass him the ball when he is cutting or while on the move to the rim…… he needs plays ran for him and he needs to be on an uptempo running style of team. SA does none of those things……. I know he has lost a step, but he should still be getting 15ppg, but simply can’t w/o the attempts. Think of Rip Hamilton in our system…… he would also struggle because we will not run all those screens for him……

    Most teams/coaches adjust their system to fit the players on their roster….. Think of Dallas, posting up Shawn Marion/Butler/Kidd when ever they have a favorable mismatch……POP doesn’t, he adjust the players to fit the system…..The Spurs never really make it easy on our role players anymore……. Not since we had Finley/Hoory have we really ran plays for the role players on a consistent basis……. and that’s why RJ is just a bad signing…….He doesn’t fit what POP wants/needs him to be…….

    That’s why I think we should have gotten Vince Carter when we had the chance…… we would have another quality options….He is more suited to handle the ball on pnr and shoot over the other teams players……..

  • doggydogworld

    @Titletown99030507d
    March 29th, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Every time Splitter left the game they were not loosing. (During quarter 1 -3). Check the DVR.

    You really think you can just make crap up? This is the internet. It’s too easy to catch people in lies. Here are the times and scores when Splitter left the game:

    1st Q 5:50 12-9 Portland
    2nd Q 0:48 56-46 Portland
    3rd Q 4:26 63-62 Portland

    And of course the Spurs were also losing when Splitter left the court at 0:00 in the 4th quarter. The Spurs were -10 in Tiago’s final appearance.

  • DorieStreet

    @ TD=BestEVER

    RE: RJ & other acquired veterans

    +20 –I think there’s a misconception with FO/coaching staff in whom they acquire–are they picking them up because of what they were in their prime; or are they added because they have a skill/ability that can selectively be used for what the ‘Spurs System’ needs?
    If SA gets RJ when he was traded from the Nets to the Bucks–then it’s the explosive, take charge player that would have been the 3rd option in our offense—Spurs adjust to his strengths; but 2 the past 2 seasons seemed to prove it is the latter, that RJ whole game is not the priority here–and therefore the puzzlement/quandry in his 2nd year as a Spur exists on the eve of the playoffs.
    RJ’s contribution/production needs to be maximized–whether it’s a game-to-game, “steady eddie” groove, or a timely bust-out performance when needed at a crucial time in a series.

  • BigJ

    Noted a few dour comments in need of something to be hopeful about. Here’s an article doing just that http://www.foxsportssouthwest.com/msn/03/29/11/Spurs-injury-woes-a-temporary-setback/landing_spurs.html?blockID=492741&feedID=3629

    GO SPURS GO!

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Bry

    RJ is fine. He’s overpaid, but there’s no changing that. He’s less overpaid now than what he was before and he’s filling his role. Considering how few shots he’s getting I’d like to see more lock-down defense from him. But, when you’re the fifth scoring option of the starting five, what’s needed is a high percentage of FGM, not higher FGAs. The Spurs still lack a real lock-down wing defender, but will have to wait until next season, or hope that Green fits the bill.
    It’s funny how everyone is panicking about the Spurs losing the top see when they are 3 and half games up with 8 to play. I’m really not that concerned. And for those of you who think the #2 seed is the easier route, I strongly disagree. Memphis will likely surpass NO for the 7 seed. NO is crashing with West out for the season, and will be an easy match-up for whomever gets them in the first round (losing an All-star starter will do that). 2nd round would be the victor of the battle between Denver and OKC. I definitely want the Lakers to play the Mavs for a draining series than avoid them and play some young unprepared team. The #2 seed likely gets Memphis first round (or Portland) then either Mavs or Lakers 2nd round. You want that route to the finals?

  • Bankshot21

    Lmao @ the call out. Let’s stop making things up when they can easily be discredited. You make all previous and future statements look shakey.

  • betsyduncan

    Nice link, BigJ!

  • rob

    I’m in agreement with Jwalt regarding RJ in that he is not aggressive enough. Whether that’s by plan or player could be questioned. I think it’s a combination of both.

    And… RJ is seemingly overpaid to be a fifth option. But he’s not overpaid to help provide insurance to winning games. And he helps win games in what others have pointed out in ways that don’t appear on a stat sheet.

    Tiago is logging valuable minutes and is getting better with each game. There is hope in the playoffs where once was a legitimate concern regarding the team’s bigs…now there can be some optimism that it won’t be as bad as once suspected.

    Gary Neal suffered a bad game. But what was that?…a bad game out of how many good games he’s provided. I think he’ll be fine. He appears to be a tough minded player as well as being better than one could have expected.

    I don’t know what happened with Hill but I hope it continues. He went from looking horrible to suddenly looking like a starter. Great sign and mental strength on his part to overcome the adversity in time for playoffs.

    Combined…tough losses but none that were catastrophic. Playing without the big 3 while inserting role players to starting status against playoff bound teams all the while creating leads only to be lost in the last minutes of these games against opponents who were at or near full strength is cause for optimism when the big 3 are healthy enough to play all at once again.

    Go Spurs Go!!!

  • TD = Best EVER

    Looking at the playoff picture……… WE are basically destined it seems to battle Memphis in the 1st round…….

    The bottom 3 teams and number of losses

    32 – NO
    32 – Portland
    33 – Memphis

    So Memphis is a full game back with 7 left to play……

    Here is there remaining schedule
    @ NO
    vs Minn
    vs Clippers
    vs Kings
    vs NO
    @ Portland
    @ Clippers

    Just looking at those games I could see them going 5-2 at best…… They are a tough team, but they can also struggle against teams that aren’t that good.

    0-2 against NO
    1-1 against Portland
    3-0 against Memphis
    2-0 against Clippers
    2-1 against Kings

    So it basically comes down to the head to head matchups Vs NO and Portland…..

    If they loose the Portland game, they would need to win both NO games to get out of the 8th spot….. because of tie breaker rules……

    So there’s the playoff picture for you……

  • BigJ

    @BetsyDuncan
    Happy to share.

    Hey, it’s interesting to read the balance of Spurs and Lakers posts here. While the Spurs woes are well detailed it seems like a few things must be noted about the Lakers woes.

    - The lower seeded teams are not intimidated by the top seeds. Although the Lakers enjoy the flexing Artest represents it’s carry over effect is not what it once was. The lower three seeds in the West are salivating for the opportunity to drop a top seed and that includes the Lakers.

    - The Lakers front line strength is evident, their depth is not. The bench has disappeared for great stretches of this season and suggesting their recent win streak cures all ails is short sighted. The Lakers bench weakness has the potential to bite them in the playoffs.

    - Kobe’s injuries. The attention to Timmy is well detailed. Tell me, though, what happens if Kobe’s injuries zap his potential? The point is, the emphasis on this being somewhat of a Spurs/Celtics issue has a narrow scope.

    - Highlighted by the last two points, all of the top seeds (save the Bulls and Heat) are succeptable to ill effects from back to back prolonged series during the play offs. Once again, the Spurs are not the only team who could be adversely effected by this scenario.

    My aim is to note it’s easy to point out the foibles the Spurs face and to accept them as overly unique to their situation. More so than previous years many other contenders share these burdens.

    GO SPURS GO!

  • grego

    Lockdown defender? There aren’t many. Battier is a free agent, but he is getting older. OKC is not letting Thabo Sefolosha go.

    The hope would be that Green and/or Butler can be developed into becoming capable defenders, but even next year they wouldn’t be “lock down”.

    Honestly, the Spurs would benefit more from multiple good defenders rather than one great defender, because there are very few great defenders. A lot less holes if the team is really good, even if there’s no great defender.

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