Round 2 of playoffs for the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers will start Tuesday night at the AT&T Center in the Alamo City.
This series looks like a tough one since the teams matchup evenly, however, the Spurs have a bigger advantage because of the depth from their bench. The Spurs use about four players from their bench on a regular basis, which any Spurs fan knows that they could go deeper if necessary. On the Blazers bench, only three players are lucky to come out and play the game.
Game 6 against the Houston Rockets, the Blazers played only three off their bench: PF Thomas Robinson, 16 minutes and 8 points; PG Mo Williams, 21 minutes and 3 points; and SF Dorell Wright checking in for only one minute. In the first round of playoffs the Blazers starting lineup was averaging at least 40 minutes per game. While the Spurs starters are barely scratching 35 minutes per game.
The two stars on Portland are the obvious F LaMarcus Aldridge and G Damian Lillard, but they could not have made it this far without the help of their role players. In their starting lineup, Portland has SF Nicolas Batum, C Robin Lopez, and SG Wesley Matthews.
The lanky, versatile forward, Nicolas Batum, averaged 13 ppg in the regular season and 15.8 ppg in the post-season. He can guard multiple positions, hit open shots, rebound and pass the ball and has the numbers to prove it. He can do anything on the court and is very durable playing every game during the regular season. The 7-foot center, Robin Lopez, has the role of protecting the hoop and grabbing rebounds. He averages about 8 rpg, 2 blocks and about 10 ppg. Because of his height he can give the big men from San Antonio some trouble inside. San Antonio native and Blazers guard Wesley Matthews, is instant offense, he can get hot at any moment and change the momentum of the game. Averaging about 16 ppg and shooting nearly 40% from the 3-point line, he is a big chunk of their offensive attack.
Portland’s role players from the bench include PG Mo Williams, SF Dorell Wright and PG Thomas Robinson. Blazer’s sixth-man and veteran Mo Williams, is a big shot maker, he always seems to step his game up while playing against the Spurs. Against San Antonio alone, Williams has averaged 15 points while shooting 50% from the field. Another role player from the bench is PF Thomas Robinson, a strong, young and a developing big man. He can’t be muscled around by anyone and is more explosive than any San Antonio big man. Then, forward, Dorell Wright, can hit the 3 if left open, he’s a decent defender at best and is mostly there to give the starters a break.
Portland’s starting lineup is the main concern, but they could be worn out from carrying the team all year long. They may be young and have the energy, but with all the minutes each player is getting, it could possibly run them into the ground. Their role players seem to be more of a relief effort than anything else.
As for the Spurs’ role players in the starting lineup, SG Danny Green, C Tiago Splitter and SF Kawhi Leonard have all made their own impacts on the game.
Spurs SG Danny Green is a 3-point shooter who hits big shots and is an elite perimeter defender. Over half his shots are from the 3-point line, and is one of the best transition defenders in the league. C Tiago Splitter has stepped his game up this post-season. With 9 rpg, 2 apg and 62% from the field he has been a big boost to the Spurs’ lineup. Splitter played great one-on-one defense with Dirk Nowitzki and he has the ability to score with his back to the basket. Although some will argue he’s a star, SF Kawhi Leonard, is one of the biggest role players for the Spurs. He is their best defender with his ability to steal the ball and guard anybody on the floor. He can score anywhere on the court, whether it is posting someone up or shooting an important 3-pointer. With his consistent play all year long, Leonard is arguably the team’s MVP.
The Spurs have the deepest bench in the league. Along with that come more role players such as F/C Boris Diaw, PG Patty Mills, and SG Marco Belinelli. Big man Boris Diaw, can do anything on the floor, he is basically a point guard playing center. This can create chaos for the defense. He shoots over 40% from the 3-point line and over 50% from the field. PG Patty Mills helps bring the energy and usually full-court presses the opposing point guard. He is an explosive scorer that can take over the game at any time. He shot 42% from the 3-point line during the regular season, on almost 4 shots a game. Mills is a fireball of energy that the Spurs need off the bench. Then, the 3-Point Contest winner SG Marco Belinelli, obviously adds another 3-point presence in the lineup. He can also create offense with his penetrating ability.
The Spurs have more weapons on their bench that they can utilize if necessary. Portland’s role players will have to step up in order to match the depth of the Spurs. But, containing the stars will be the Spurs’ main focus. Blazer’s star players Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are two of the most elite players in the league and will cause some challenges come round 2 of the playoffs.
However, if the Spurs continue to play team basketball and limit turnovers, their chances getting to the finals are that much closer.