The San Antonio Spurs played the Portland Trail Blazers almost perfectly on their rotations all night until they allowed Wesley Matthews two big shots with less than three minutes remaining to push Portland to a 109-100 road victory. Let's take a look at how the Blazers stepped away from the Spurs late in the fourth quarter.
The first shot came after Portland grabbed a rebound off a Tim Duncan miss with 2:54 remaining in the fourth quarter and the score desperately close, 97-94. The Blazers called a timeout, and coach Terry Stotts drew up a simple after timeout play (ATO).
Portland's main action was meant to be a simple pick-and-roll with Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez at the top of the key. With Boris Diaw covering the play well, there was no entry pass available for Lopez, and Matthews simply squared the floor. Batum was able to give Matthews the ball on a hand-off play and the Blazers guard pulled the trigger, making it 100-93.
As I have diagrammed before, the Trail Blazers are great when teams try to double-team LaMarcus Aldridge in the post. With the Blazers ahead after a Nic Batum layup, 102-96, the Spurs tried to stop Aldridge from scoring down low. San Antonio had no choice, as Aldridge had hit four of the Blazers' last five shots at that point in the game.
The Swing and the Signal
Before Aldridge passed the ball out to a waiting Batum, Robin Lopez signaled (arrow) to Wes Matthews to prepare to move up the arc as he went to set a screen on the help defender. Portland knew the double-team was coming on Aldridge and positioned themselves well.
Aldridge kicked the ball out to Batum, who swung the ball across the arc. Meanwhile, Lopez moved diagonally from the elbow to the post, causing problems for the defense. The triangle in the photo above shows the amount of space allowed by Lopez screening two help defenders on the block. It's absolutely critical, and it left Matthews open for an easy three-pointer.
Portland didn't let the Spurs' big third quarter burst faze them, and LaMarcus Aldridge was unstoppable down low against one of the all-time greats in Tim Duncan. San Antonio did fare well on their rotations throughout the game, but with Aldridge going to work they were bound to break down as Portland's outside shooting helped them move to a 30-9 record on the season.
-- Dane Carbaugh | @DaneCarbaugh