Portland Trail Blazers 100, San Antonio Spurs 92: The youngins keep it close, but fall short in the end
AT&T CENTER –Â 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.Â 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.