After trailing by as much as 14 points and looking like they couldn’t hold onto the basketball even if the the ball and their hands were attached with Velcro, the San Antonio Spurs were able to pull out a fourth quarter 112-109 victory in Portland against the Trail Blazers on Saturday.
Turnovers were once again the weakness of the Spurs as they followed up a 19-turnover night in Sacramento with a 21-turnover night against the Blazers. After the third quarter, the Spurs were trailing like they had been for much of the game, but then Gary Neal exploded for 15 points in the fourth quarter to score a career-high 27 points and guide the Spurs to the thrilling victory.
Here’s the rundown.
The 4-Quarter Slim Down
First quarter: After allowing the Blazers to build a 10-point lead with 2:25 remaining due to more turnovers (7) and missed assignments on defense, Manu Ginobili (17 points), Stephen Jackson (13 points), and Neal helped the Spurs close the first quarter with a 12-0 run to tie the game after one, 26-26.
Second quarter: The turnover woes continued once again in the second quarter as the Spurs turned the ball over seven more times. By halftime, they’d totaled 14 turnovers. The Blazers defense held the Spurs to just 17 points in the second quarter, though both teams were shooting 50% or better at half.
Third quarter: It was an up-and-down third quarter for the Spurs in the third as the Blazers would build a double-digit lead, and then the Spurs would get the game back within single digits. With four seconds remaining, Neal almost turned the ball over but passed it to Ginobili who sunk a floater at the buzzer to cut the Blazers’ lead to 79-73 after three quarters of play. The Spurs did a much better job of controlling the ball as they only turned the ball over four times in the quarter.
Fourth quarter: The fourth quarter was an offensive onslaught for the Spurs as they opened the fourth quarter with a 14-0 run, and they were able to build an eight point lead. Neal went off in the fourth scoring 15 of the Spurs’ 39 points in the quarter, but the Blazers also bounced back by scoring 30 points in the fourth behind a surge from Nicolas Batum (33 points). Down the stretch though, the Spurs were able to put the game away with free throws from Ginobili and Jackson. By the time the buzzer rang, the Spurs had finished the game shooting 57% in a road game.
Out of the starting five: Tim Duncan (22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) was one of the only bright spots out of the starting lineup in the first half as Duncan had scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. In the second half though, Kawhi Leonard (10 points) and Danny Green (10 points) both helped Duncan in the scoring front, more importantly Green at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Duncan was a big part of the Spurs closing the game out in the fourth quarter as he made smart plays that allowed the team to keep separation from Portland.
Off the bench: Jackson, Neal, and Ginobili were the three most productive players off the bench in the first half as they had a combined 21 points, which helped with the scoring load the starters were missing. By the end of three, Jackson, Neal, and Ginobili all had scored over 10 points in the game. In the fourth, all three were instrumental in helping the Spurs close the game out. The bench as a whole outscored the Blazers 63-4 in the game.
Player of the game: Gary Neal – 27 points. Not only did Neal score a career high of 27 points, but most of his shots didn’t come from his normal 3-point range as he only made 2-of-3 three pointers. Neal shot 11-of-16 from the floor with multiple jump shots and even layups from drives to the basket. Aside from scoring a variety of points, Neal also grabbed seven rebounds in the game.
The Spurs played the game without Tony Parker who was suffering from the stomach flu and DeJuan Blair (knee contusion). Patty Mills was awarded the starting point guard duty on Saturday where he finished with seven points. With the victory, the Spurs stay atop the Western Conference with a 6-1 record. The Spurs will have two days off before traveling back down to California to face the new-look Los Angeles Lakers who may or may not have a new coach on Tuesday when the teams meet.