Spurs-Blazers Second Round Tale of the Tape
Visit the Spurs-Blazers series hub for all the coverage of San Antonio’s second round series.
Despite the quick turnaround from Game 7 of Spurs-Mavs to Game 1 of Spurs-Blazers, we have another series preview for you, including a new infographic from Chandler Goodman.
Matchup to Watch
This series will be full of great matchups. Tiago Splitter on LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland’s wing defenders against San Antonio’s swingmen and vice versa, Robin Lopez getting the Tim Duncan assignment and Gregg Popovich against Terry Stotts, who was Rick Carlisle’s right-hand man when Dallas won that title in 2011. You can bet those two have already been on the phone. But this one’s a no-brainer: Tony Parker vs. Damian Lillard is gonna be a freaking treat. Parker might see a lot of the same stuff from the Trail Blazers that the Mavs threw his way, so expect to see a lot of the Spurs’ point guard if Portland stays with shooters the same way Dallas did. As for Lillard, if you haven’t seen this dude play yet in the postseason, prepare yourself. He’s a nightmare. Pull-up 3s, zippy pick-and-rolls and ice in his veins, he’s got it all.
— Matthew Tynan
The Spurs frontline against another dominant power forward. Aldridge was getting MVP buzz early in the season and though his numbers tapered off at the end of the season, he’s still one of two or three best power forwards in the game. His skillset is similar to Dirk’s; will Tiago Splitter do as good a job on him? In the two games against the Blazers that Splitter was healthy for in the regular season, Aldridge scored a combined 50 points. The big question is whether we’ll see Aldridge and Duncan guard each other much.
— Trevor Zickgraf
Fabricio Oberto Memorial “Guy Who Will Make the Biggest Impact While Scoring Fewer Than Five Points in the Series”
Robin Lopez. Fropez defended the most shots at the rim per game in the first round of the playoffs, contesting 17.7 a contest. The Rockets shot about 52 percent from up close on the Blazers’ big man, which is pretty solid defense. The Spurs finally got the shots they wanted in Game 7 on Sunday and if that’s going to continue Lopez will be a big variable. If he does well to contest shots without fouling, the Spurs could face some hiccups offensively against the Blazers. And while he’s nothing to write home about on the offensive end, Lopez averaged four offensive rebounds per game in the six-game series with Houston. Considering the trouble San Antonio had blocking out Samuel Dalembert last round (3.3 OREBs per game), Lopez’s strength in that area could become an issue.
— Andrew McNeill
Opposing player who is most likely to cause you to break out of your objectivity
LaMarcus Aldridge. Lillard’s a lot of fun to watch, but having watched Duncan’s entire career I have a sweet tooth for dominant power forwards. Aldridge grew up in Dallas and played college ball in Austin as Duncan and Dirk were entering their primes. And it shows. Whether it’s the mid-range game or the post footwork, he’s a treat to watch. Did you know he potentially is a free agent next summer? That would mean possibly he, Kevin Love and Chris Bosh (if he decides not to opt out this summer) could all be on the open market right as Duncan’s career ends or is in its (possibly) final year. I’m not saying, but I’m just sayin’.
Statistic that will best define the series
My first instinct was to say LaMarcus Aldridge’s shooting percentage, but I’m not sure that’s the case. The Spurs have gotten to the point where they just play him as best they can straight up and live with those mid-range shots. Gregg Popovich admitted as much earlier this season. He’s an impossible matchup with an impossibly high release on his jumper, and he shoots a better percentage against the Spurs than he does against any other team. Seriously, 55.7 percent from the floor against San Antonio throughout his career? I’m not exaggerating. No, the stat that will define the series will be Portland’s 3-point numbers, specifically how many attempts they’re able to launch. They have so many deadly shooters to which you simply can’t afford space. With all the body blows Aldridge connects with from mid-range, those deep balls will feel like haymakers if they go down. The Spurs and Blazers allow the fewest 3-point attempts to opponents per game in the league, and San Antonio needs to make sure they stick to that practice.
Coach that would win in a back-alley brawl
Terry Stotts is 6-foot-8 and played about ten seasons of professional basketball before getting into the coaching profession. He’s eight years younger than Gregg Popovich and looks like he could still hold his own in some recreational basketball. From a physical standpoint, he’s got a clear edge over Pop. That said, considering some of the lineups Popovich has thrown out this season, he knows how to make the most of what he’s got available. In the event of a brawl, you can expect Pop to be MacGyver-like in his ability to fashion an effective weapon out of whatever objects have been strewn about this theoretical alley. I take Pop in a landslide.
The Spurs lose this series if…
The bench that played during the Dallas series shows up. No doubt Rick Carlisle’s buddy Terry Stotts has studied how Dallas defended the Spurs and will use some of that, but mostly Patty Mills needs to hit those shots he’s still taking and Marco Belinelli needs to find a way to get Marco Belinelli going. He was dreadful in the first round. Portland’s starting unit is going to match what the Spurs can give and for stretches, be the better starting five. However, past Mo Williams, there isn’t a ton from Portland’s bench that scares you. Thomas Robinson can probably do some of the stuff DeJuan Blair did to torment the Spurs and is likely to either block Tiago at the rim or dunk on him, but you live with that as long as the Spurs bench is moving the ball and hitting three-pointers. They didn’t do that consistently in round one and they’ll get burned if it happens again this round.
The Spurs win this series if…
… they play defense the way they did in Game 7 against Dallas. It’s been a long time since they’ve looked so devastating on that end, and that trend must continue. It takes a whole hell of a lot of energy to defend Portland and even more mental focus. They’ll be a bit Mavs-like on both sides of the ball from an Xs and Os perspective, except pumped full of steroids (not literally). Put it this way, Aldridge and Lillard are both better than any player on that Dallas team, so it’s going to be quite difficult from the start. The Mavs had a little bit more depth than the Blazers do, but Portland has young legs and is playing very, very confident basketball right now. San Antonio must show up with that suffocating defense again, and if it does, I believe things will go the Spurs’ way.
48 MoH Staff Predictions
I think the Spurs win in six games. We finally saw this team break out in Game 7 against the Mavericks, and it was mainly because of that extra defensive gear. Wherever their heads and/or bodies may have been early in the series as Dallas was scheming them to hell, they seem to have bounced back. They’ll likely face a little of that again, but this time they’ll be prepared.
Spurs in six. I think the bench is going to get it together and I think Portland’s going to have just as many problems defending the Spurs as Dallas did. If you combine those two things that usually equals the Spurs winning more than losing.
Spurs in six games as well. Every time I talk about this series out loud, I seem to talk myself into the Blazers being a really bad matchup for the Spurs, and yet I can’t help but think San Antonio is the better team. They adjusted over the course of the series to beat Dallas and the team we saw in Game 7 looked like the one that won 19 games in a row. If San Antonio found it’s groove, not many teams left will be able to stop them.
Game 1 of Spurs-Blazers is Tuesday night at 8:30 pm central time and can be seen on TNT. For Spurs fans looking for tickets to Game 1, visit our friends at TiqIQ.