Two days after blowing out the Blazers in Game 1, San Antonio won Game 2, 114-97, on Thursday at the AT&T Center to take a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 is Saturday in Portland.
• An offensive explosion. There seems to be a misperception about the Spurs' style of play. Fans often claim that San Antonio plays boring basketball. The gaudy win totals posted year-after-year are viewed as the product of a regimented, machine-like system that leaves no room for flair or creativity.
The Clippers, with Lob City, and the Thunder, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, are considered the two fun, exciting Western Conference contenders. San Antonio, meanwhile, is characterized as dull and predictable – a group of seasoned veterans well-drilled in fundamentals.
Want proof? Try the second quarter of Thursday night’s blowout win over Portland. After a 29-point first quarter, the Spurs erupted for 41 (the most allowed in any quarter in Blazers’ playoff history) to stretch their lead to 19 heading into halftime.
First, Boris Diaw converted two jump shots, then Kawhi Leonard drained a 16-footer, then Danny Green buried a pair of threes. The Spurs carved up Portland from the perimeter and inside, in transition and in the halfcourt, a multifaceted onslaught.
They were clinical in their execution, unrelenting in their ambition to score, score, score. If the Blazers’ defense was flustered on defense during Tuesday’s 24-point loss in Game 1, they looked completely hapless during the second quarter Thursday. At one point, the Spurs scored on 11 consecutive possessions.
Portland never got its bearings, and Tony Parker laced a jumpshot just before halftime to give the Spurs a staggering 70 points, the closing blow of a devastating offensive bombardment that effectively put the game out of reach. At least the Blazers could spend the next few minutes in the comfort of a locker room.
The Blazers were able to cut into San Antonio’s lead in the second half, with Wesley Matthews scoring 10 unanswered points during a stretch in the third quarter, and pulled within eight after a three from Nicolas Batum with 5:37 remaining in the fourth. But Boris Diaw responded with a trey of his own and the Spurs cruised down the stretch.
Kawhi Leonard, who scored only once during that second-quarter blitz, knocked down all four of his three-point attempts throughout the game and scored a team-high 20 points. Tony Parker, who went off for 33 points in Game 1, finished with 16, while Marco Bellinelli had 13 and big men Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter added 10 apiece.
• Nothing easy for Aldridge. As impressive as the Spurs were on offense, I would be remiss not to mention the strong effort they put forth on the other end of the floor.
Specifically, San Antonio did well to slow All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. On a night when versatile wing Nicolas Batum turned in 21 points and connected on three of his five three-point attempts, Aldridge shot just 6-of-23 from the field for 16 points, his second-lowest tally of the postseason.
Aldridge’s performance for much of this postseason underscores his value to Portland’s offense. In Games 1 and 2 of the Blazers’ first-round series against Houston, Aldridge was seemingly unguardable and exploded for 49 points. In Games 2 and 5, both Portland losses, Aldridge was held under 25 points and 40 percent shooting.
The Spurs’ approach to defending Aldridge seems to be working. At the very least, it’s an improvement over what Houston did. San Antonio did a good job making things difficult for the Blazers’ forward on Thursday. Aldridge was never able to settle into a rhythm. His mid-range jump shot – Aldridge's bread and butter – wasn’t falling, and his attempts from close range were well defended.
And while Aldridge scored 32 points in Game 1, most of them came in garbage time and he needed 25 shots, many of which were contested by at least one Spur.
Check out his shotchart from Game 2.
Down 2-0, Portland needs Aldridge to play well to turn this series around. So far, though, the Spurs have done an excellent job ensuring he works for his points. Whereas Aldridge carried Portland to a 2-0 lead in the first-round, the Spurs have effectively limited his impact.
Said Aldridge after Game 2, "Going home, every guy has to play better, starting with me."
• Snake sighting. The Blazers on Thursday discovered a surprise guest inside the visitors locker room at the AT&T Center. A couple hours before tipoff, forward Thomas Robinson found a large snake taking up residence at the base of his locker.
“It’s bizarre to have a venomous snake in your locker room,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters. “I don’t know if it’s happened before. That sounds like an ABA story.”
A Spurs spokesperson said the snake – which was reportedly released back into the wild – was not a rattlesnake, a venomous species. “I just put my shoes down and once I put my shoes down I double looked and I seen a snake sitting there,” Robinson told Blazers.com. “After that, I got away from it. I just seen something curled up and I looked again and it was a snake. No one believed me until they looked in there. It hissed, I backed up.”
Guard Mo Williams posted a picture of the black-and-white reptile, estimated to be 18 inches in length, to his instagram account.