The first round playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks had it all – literally.
All seven games in the series were played and what a series it was. From Vince Carter’s buzzer-beater to beat the Spurs in Game 3, DeJuan Blair’s kick to the head of Tiago Splitter in Game 4, to the series-clinching blowout win on Sunday afternoon.
For the first four games, the Silver & Black struggled to figure out the Mavericks defense. The Spurs bench that was a staple of success for them all season long, disappeared until Game 5. Everything came together in the seventh and final game as the Spurs scored early and often in the 119-96 win over Dallas to win the series 4-3. Now the Silver & Black have a date with the Portland Trail Blazers in round two starting Tuesday.
The Spurs and Blazers split the two meetings this season, but what led to the wins and losses? Below, I have broken down the four games in the season series:
Game #1: Spurs at Blazers – November 2, 2013 (POR 115-105)
The Spurs faced the Blazers just 24 hours after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers to start the season 2-0, while the Blazers were coming off a win on the road in Denver. Portland outscored San Antonio 29-20 in the second quarter as Damian Lillard posted a game-high 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while LaMarcus Aldridge added 24. Tim Duncan matched Aldridge’s 24, while Marco Belinelli chipped in 19 points. Fast break points would be in the Blazers advantage as they outscored San Antonio 7-2.
Game #2: Blazers at Spurs – January 17, 2014 (POR 109-100)
Both teams came into the game with a day off in between games. However, the Spurs would be without Danny Green who missed the game with a broken hand. Once again, San Antonio had trouble containing Lillard and Aldridge as the duo scored nearly half of Portland’s 109 points. Aldridge finished with 26 points on 11-of-22 shooting. Manu Ginobili led all scorers with 29 points, but did not get much help. Tony Parker struggled with just 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field. San Antonio would again struggle with fast break points as the Blazers had the edge 16-3. Gregg Popovich would be ejected from the game and Matt Bonner left the game with a broken nose.
Game #3: Spurs at Blazers – February 19, 2014 (SA 111-109)
The Spurs were playing on the second night of a back-to-back after getting a win over the Los Angeles Clippers the night before. The Silver & Black were without both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan who were resting. Patty Mills took over in Parker’s absence as he posted 29 points on 13-of-26 shooting. Marco Belinelli connected on four of his six three-point attempts and added 20 points in the two point victory. Lillard stayed hot with a game-high 31 points, but it would not be enough for Portland, who were missing Aldridge (groin injury). Portland would out-rebound the Spurs 45-40.
Game #4: Blazers at Spurs – March 12, 2014 (SA 103-90)
In the fourth and final meeting between the two teams, the Spurs had their most convincing win. Aldridge struggled with just 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field. Lillard finished with 23 points, but had to work for it as he shot 9-of-22. Parker struggled once again with just nine points, but Danny Green would post 14 in the victory. San Antonio out-rebounded Portland 55-48 and held the edge in fast break points 9-4.
The Spurs have experience and that could be the difference in this series. The defending Western Conference champions have a roster that has years of playoff experience and have been playoff tested. Duncan and Parker know how to keep their foot on the gas and can deliver when needed, while the Blazers have not been in the Western Conference Semifinals since 2000 – that is 14 years, folks!
San Antonio has a much better defense than Houston and will take advantage of that in the series. The Spurs will have to defend the pick-and-roll of Lillard and Aldridge, who have been proven to be a nightmare for teams this season.
Patty Mills, Ginobili, Green, Duncan, Belinelli and Boris Diaw have all played well against Portland. Belinelli had his 3rd best scoring average against any team while facing the Blazers. Parker struggled, shooting just 35 percent and averaging 12.2 points per game.
The Blazers got good games from Aldridge, Lillard and Wes Matthews. Matthews averaged 19 points per game, mostly from beyond the arc. Aldridge shot 56 percent and averaged 21 points per game, while Lillard burned the Spurs.
All in all, I give the advantage to the Spurs because of experience and defense.
The Spurs and Blazers will square off in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. central at the AT&T Center.
(Stats via ESPN.com and basketball-reference)