The Portland Trail Blazers' Game 4 win over the San Antonio Spurs gave them hope. In Wednesday night's Game 5, the West's top seed snuffed out any possibility of a long series with yet another dominant display.
In their fourth and final comfortable win of the series, the Spurs came away with a 104-82 victory to eliminate the Blazers and move on to the Western Conference finals against either the Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers. While Portland looked to have a shot at an upset prior to the start of the series, San Antonio encountered few challenges and looked in control for the majority of these five games.
For some time, it looked like the Blazers might have a chance to steal a win and head back to Portland with the opportunity to extend the series to an improbable Game 7. After three dominant starts to the second quarter in their first three wins, the Spurs failed to put the game away in that stretch for the second straight game, giving the Blazers a chance to stay in contention and depend on their considerably talented starting five. At halftime, the Spurs held a 32-25 lead largely on the basis of 5-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. They looked like the superior team but weren't dominating by any stretch. On top of that, they were to play the second half without star point guard Tony Parker, who felt tightness in his left hamstring and was ruled out at the break. (Spurs fans need not worry — Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express News reported that Parker would have been available for a hypothetical Game 6.) With Parker out and scoreless for the game, the Blazers had a break and the chance to fight back in the second half.
They achieved nothing of the sort. San Antonio opened the second half with an 8-0 run in just 1:27, turning that seven-point advantage into a 15-point margin. That lead eventually got as high as 19 points in the quarter and never dipped below 14 for the rest of the game. With the score 100-74 with 4:30 left in regulation, this result was never really in doubt during the second half.
With Parker out, the Spurs made use of their considerable depth and scoring balance. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green scored 22 points apiece on combined 18-of-28 shooting from the field and 7-of-10 from deep, while Patty Mills hit for 18 points off the bench. Leonard, in particular, looked like a star, making plays at both ends to keep things comfortable for San Antonio.
The Blazers' final stats are unspectacular. They shot 40.7 percent from the field, 5-of-19 from three-point range, and turned it over 18 times. Their defense never really kept the Spurs from getting the shots they wanted. Certain players impressed in spots, but no one dominated to the extent necessary to put the Spurs in danger. This season was a very successful one for a team few expected to make the playoffs, let alone win a series, but it's clear that they were no match for San Antonio's experience, execution, ability to make opponents uncomfortable. Whatever factors appeared to give Portland a chance at an upset did not materialize.
The Spurs' struggles against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round indicate that they're not invincible, but they have been the most impressive team of the conference semifinals by a considerable margin. They performed somewhere close to their ideal in this series, frustrating the Blazers at every opportunity. The Thunder or Clippers will have a considerable challenge on their hands to advance to the NBA Finals.
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