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Trail Blazers Taken to School By the Spurs

The Portland Trail Blazers are on the brink of elimination after losing Saturday night to the San Antonio Spurs, to trail in their best of seven series 3-0.

Unlike the other semifinal series in the NBA Western Conference between the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Trail Blazers are being manhandled by their opponent in every facet of the game.

In Game 3, Portland showed some flash on their home court running off 8 straight points in the first quarter, 12 straight early after halftime and 10 straight during the fourth to make the game more competitive.

Regardless, of the three offensive spurts, the Trail Blazers on defense could not stop the Spurs. Tony Parker scored 29 points and handed out 6 assists. Kawhi Leonard hit for 16 points while grabbing 10 rebounds.

Portland never led by more than 1 point during all of Game 3. The Trail Blazers led during the game for just 17 seconds. However, Tim Duncan, who scored 19 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, knocked down a jumper for the Spurs to retake the lead.

The difference in this series is not that Portland is playing miserably and handing the games to San Antonio. The Spurs have veteran experience, a balanced system where their substitutes do not hurt the level of talent on the floor and they execute their offense ruthlessly.

The biggest disparity is the difference between the benches. In Game 3, Portland’s bench scored just a half a dozen points. Yes, just six points.

By comparison, the bench players for San Antonio scored 40 points. Between Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills, the Spurs first three off the bench thoroughly dominated the bench from Portland.

Thiago Splitter has become a stopper. Portland’s higher scorer LaMarcus Aldridge dominated the Houston Rockets defense in round one, but Splitter has neutralized the Trail Blazers’ scoring machine turning him into a non-factor.

The bench for Portland is unreliable at best, Mo Williams, the reserve’s best player, is sidelined with a groin injury, which makes it necessary for Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts to have his starters play huge minutes. That makes the extra time they spend on the court undercut by fatigue.

Portland must start throwing everything they have at San Antonio. The first quarter has been a disaster for Portland. In the first three games, the starters for Portland have been outscored by 39 points per every 100 possessions, during the first quarter.

Defensively, the Blazers must aggressively double team, make switches and trap Parker harder to force him to give up the ball.

In the NBA, nothing is guaranteed and this series still could be played out in four more games. However, it is likely that the Spurs will shut the door on the Trail Blazers in Game 4 and sweep the series.

If San Antonio accomplishes that, it will give them more time to rest for the Western Conference Finals against either the Los Angeles Clippers or Oklahoma City Thunder.

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