AT&T CENTER – While the opening round of the NBA playoffs were extremely competitive, the second round has consisted of a series of blowout wins.
The San Antonio Spurs seemed to use any momentum after their Game 7 win against the Dallas Mavericks to give the Trailblazers a game no one could have expected, securing the series lead with a 116-92 win.
“We had a lot of confidence as a team. I think team-wise we played our best game in Game 7. I think tonight we did a lot of the same things,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “I think defensively it was one of our best games because Portland has a lot of shooters and weapons.”
The Spurs got off to a blistering pace in the first quarter while the Blazers were unable to put a point on the board until four minutes into the game.
It was clear early on that Parker gave the Blazers’ defense headaches. Parker was able to zip by anyone put in front of him and had 13 first quarter points to pace the Spurs.
A key to the Spurs’ early start was limiting LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. Lillard only managed to score two points in the first quarter, and Tiago Splitter, who shined against Dirk Nowitzk and Dallas, defended Aldridge, limiting the All-Star forward’s air space and contesting shots. By the end of the first, Aldridge was one-of-five from the field.
While Aldridge was more effective in the second quarter, the Spurs got some unexpected contributions off the bench to sustain the lead going into the third quarter.
Midway through the third, the Blazers had just one player reach double figures, and the Spurs were able to take a 29-point lead, their biggest of the game.
Lillard eventually got going in the second half, but by then the margin had become too large to overcome.
“They did what championship teams do. They came out and set the tone early. Most of the guys on the team haven’t even been in the second round and (the Spurs) won championships. They’ve been here,” Aldridge said. “I think they definitely came out and they let us know how it’s going to be. I think every guy on the team understands that. They took care of home court tonight.”
Spurs big man Aron Baynes made his playoff debut against the Blazers and made an impact early. He scored four quick points and was able to continue to pressure Aldridge when Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan went to the bench. Baynes finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in just under 15 minutes on the floor.
Marco Belinelli struggled throughout the first round series against the Mavericks, but thw tide changed early as Belinelli hit three early three-pointers.
“Dallas made a conscious effort to stay on our shooters. Tonight was different. I made a conscious effort to find Marco,” Parker said. “I talked to Pop. We wanted Marco to be back in the series, be back in the playoffs. I was trying to call his number and look for him a lot. Tonight I think half my assists were to Marco.”
Belinelli finished with 19 points in Game 1, just three points shy of his entire scoring total in the first round.