San Antonio and Portland Tip Off Western Conference Semifinals
The Spurs arrived at this series after defeating the Dallas Mavericks in seven games, while Portland defeated Houston in six games in their first round series.
The series win by Portland was its first in 14 seasons but now they must face the No. 1 seed in the conference. The Spurs captured the Southwest division title while leading the Western Conference with 62 wins during the regular season.
The Trail Blazers won their series in dramatic fashion when Damian Lillard hitting a clutch three-point shot at the buzzer in Game 6 to defeat the Rockets.
During the regular season, San Antonio and Portland split their four games played head to head.
Although Houston led for the major of minutes during their series with Portland, the Blazers found the answers down the stretch of four games to take the series 4-2.
Going into the series between the Spurs and Trail Blazers, there are matchups and scenarios that need to be looked at.
LaMarcus Aldridge the Portland high scorer averaged 29.8 points a game against the Rockets. However, the Spurs own the No. 3 defense in the league and will likely hold him under the average he had against Houston.
San Antonio’s bench will be a key. The Spurs veterans will need rest and the bench has done an exceptional job all season. Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli, Cory Joseph and Patty Mills all need to come up big. However, in their series with Dallas the reserves did not perform up to par.
Tony Parker is a much better court general for the Spurs than Nicolas Batum is for Portland. Parker has led the Spurs in scoring all season when healthy. He will play a prominent role in this series. Batum is too inconsistent and that will hurt the team against the Spurs.
Tim Duncan enjoyed a very good series against the Mavericks. The veteran shooting forward will be a tough challenge for Robin Lopez. Expect Duncan to score often in this series.
San Antonio has had their big three for over a decade. Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili have carried the team to a number of championships. When the game is on the line, the Spurs look to Ginobili, who has an uncanny ability to hit the clutch shot.
Even though he is 36, Ginobili is still a difference maker and he will be a key to the Spurs success against the upstart Trail Blazers.
Portland will not have the luxury of San Antonio always leaving the back door open late in the game for the Trail Blazers to sneak through and win as Houston did on the first round.
Prediction: San Antonio will use its home court advantage to win this series in seven.