Trail Blazers vs Warriors Wednesday, 04/17/13 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Lose Thriller To Spurs 112-109

11/11/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    Nicolas Batum led the way for Portland tying a career-high 33 points, 13 of which came in the final period but it was ultimately not enough to beat the Spurs as they fall 112-109 in an absolute thriller. LaMarcus Aldridge also had a big night for the Trail Blazers scoring 29 points and also tied a career high with seven assists.  Portland led for much of the game but a run to start the fourth quarter by the Spurs put them in front and Portland could not close the game out in the final moments giving the Spurs the victory.

    “I thought for the most part we played a good game. Obviously, the end of the third quarter, beginning of the fourth was a problem,” said Stotts after the game.

    For the second game in a row, Nicolas Batum expressed that the Trail Blazers have yet to put together 48 minutes of basketball.

    The game started off pretty well for the Trail Blazers as they played a great first six minutes and were shooting the ball very well. Nicolas Batum started out the game very hot as he scored 11 points to lead them. LaMarcus Aldridge was also very active in the interior as well as outside, scoring six points on three of six shooting. However, although the Trail Blazers had a lot of success from the field, they couldn’t seem to stop the Spurs as they shot 64% in that first quarter. Tim Duncan led the way for the Spurs with eight points.

    The second quarter was when the Trail Blazers began to open things up behind more excellent play from Batum and Aldridge. In the second quarter, the rookie point guard Damian Lillard also got into the act as he scored 10 of his 20 points in the second quarter. Portland was attacking the basket as well as continuing to hit their three-point shots. They got out in the open court and the Spurs were not knocking down as many shots as they had been hitting and they continued to turn the ball over. The Spurs had 14 turnovers in the first half which led to 16 Trail Blazers points. Behind the action of Batum, Lillard and Aldridge, they took a nine-point lead into halftime as it seemed they could do know wrong, dominating every facet of the game.

    As the second half began, it seemed that the Trail Blazers were going to run away with the game. They went on a 9-4 run to extend the lead to 14, their biggest lead. As Portland had an opportunity to extend the lead to 16 with under nine minutes to go, Wesley Matthews, who had had a rough shooting night, took the ball aggressively to the rack but was blocked by Tim Duncan on his way up and landed awkwardly. Matthews was on the ground for a couple of minutes and Will Barton entered the game in his place for a few minutes. Matthews would eventually come back to the game and be fine, but the Trail Blazers were not.

    After the Matthews fall with 8:35 left in the third quarter, the Spurs went on a 15-4 run to cut the Trail Blazers lead to only three points. An Aldridge jumper stopped the bleeding and Portland would eventually get the lead back to six after the third had ended. JJ Hickson led the Trail Blazers with nine points in the third quarter but Lillard was very quiet in the third only taking one shot and dished no assists. Wesley Matthews also continued is poor shooting night.

    The Portland bench did not provide any scoring relief, as they only had four points on the game.  Coach Stotts said that he cares more about what happens when the bench players are in the game rather than the stats they put up after. Meanwhile, the Spurs bench scored 63 points with Gary Neal and Manu Ginobili leading the way scoring 27 and 17 respectively. Stephen Jackson also chipped in with 13 off the bench.

    Before the second half began, Mike Acker of Rip City Project said that if Portland could get it to 15 at the end of the fourth that he thought San Antonio’s Greg Poppovich would shut down Ginobili and Duncan and go to his bench and the game would be that. That, in fact was what Poppovich did heading into the fourth quarter only down by six. However, rather than extend the lead, the Trail Blazers fell behind as Gary Neal lead the Spurs on a 14-0 run to start the fourth quarter. The Spurs went small and it seemed Portland had no answer as they blindsided the Trail Blazers, the Rose Garden crowd and even some of us in the press area.

    “In the fourth quarter, their bench had nothing to lose. And they just played. They played the game. They played tough. They played harder than us,” said Batum.

    “When we play small, there’s less structure in the offense, so it’s a more get-it-an-go attack,” said Neal who was San Antonio’s leading scorer on the night.

    Neal extended the lead to eight with 8:48 left and the Trail Blazers needed to make a run. They needed to make stops and needed to make buckets. Behind great defense and the brilliant play of Nicolas Batum, they did just that. Portland’s players were protecting the rim and making San Antonio take tough shots. It seemed like Neal and Ginobili answered every Batum bucket. Neal was unstoppable in the fourth as it seemed he could do no wrong. Neal had 15 of his 27 points in the fourth.

    “Neal made some one-legged runners, one-legged glass. We didn’t give up just open looks,” said Aldridge after the game.

    However, despite Neal’s great shooting, Portland still had a chance to win. After a missed free-throw by Wesley Matthews, he and JJ Hickson teamed up to get a steal that Hickson took to the rack to cut the Spurs lead to 5 with under three minutes left. After Neal answered again Damian Lillard was more aggressive with a big three to make it a five-point ball game. Lillard finished 20 points and six assists on the night. Lillard became the fourth player since 1985 to record 100 points and 40 assists in his first six games as a rookie joining John Wall, LeBron James and Damon Stoudamire.

    Portland, who has been criticized for allowing opponents to shoot such a high percentage were making the necessary stops. A Batum three pointer made it a two-point game. After San Antonio answered, he followed that up with a block that led to a wide-open Matthews three.

    As Portland was scrambling, the Spurs got the ball into their Hall of Fame power forward Duncan. As Duncan caught the ball on the block, Damian Lillard snuck behind him getting position outside of the charge-circle. Duncan bowled over Lillard but was given a continuation and Lillard was called for a foul. Duncan missed the free-throw and Portland was down by three. Terry Stotts wanted to run a two-man game with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum and the post-up by Aldridge led to a wide-open look for Batum who hit a big three to tie the game. Batum rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter scoring 13 of his 33 points.

    With forty seconds left, the Spurs had the ball and Danny Green missed a wide-open three pointer but Portland suffered a lapse and allowed San Antonio to get the rebound giving them another shot to take the lead. Manu Ginobili got fouled and made both free throws. Nicolas Batum who had been feeling it in the final period got a clean look off a screen to win the game for three but the ball bounced off the rim twice and the ball eventually ended up in San Antonio hands.

    A valiant effort from the Trail Blazers this evening but it was not enough to get the win against a deeper and more experienced San Antonio team. The runs in the third and fourth quarter proved costly and Portland did not recover to get the win. Aldridge spoke of the challenges in closing out late games and Stotts said that the Trail Blazers have lacked the attention to detail defensively. The Trail Blazers, like a lot of young teams just aren’t doing the little things to win.

    Portland’s next game is against a revamped Atlanta Hawks team on Monday night at the Rose Garden before they head onto the road. Having lost their first two games, it will be important for Portland’s confidence to get a win before heading out on the road. That game will tip-off at 7PM and will air on CSNNW and can be heard on the radio on 1190 KEX and 102.3 FM.

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