Tonight the Blazers start their second round series with the Spurs, the long awaited rematch of the 1999 western conference finals. In 1999 the Spurs and Blazers both had great rosters with promising futures. We all know which franchise has been more successful in the last 15 years. However, this second round matchup against the Spurs reads a lot like the Blazers 1999 second round series against the Utah Jazz. The series that became the national coming out party for Brian Grant and lightning in a bottle that almost brought home an NBA championship in 2000.
Like the 2014 Spurs, the Jazz were the defending western conference champs and they went to a decisive 5th game with the Kings in their first round series. The Jazz pulled it out narrowly winning game 5. Some in the Portland media were disappointed that the Blazers would not have home court advantage, and Mike Dunleavy answered with his best quote as Blazers coach.
"To be the best you've got the beat the best. The Jazz have been the best team in the western conference for back to back seasons and if we want to get to that place we've got to go through them."
"Of course!" I thought. "Why wouldn't we want the Jazz? I hate the Jazz! Beating them would be the best feeling in the world!" We all remember that memorable series, Brian Grant outplayed Karl Malone, supposedly the best power forward in the NBA, capping the series off by canning a turn around fade away in Malone's face to clinch game six. That series moved the Blazers back into contender status in the western conference and Blazermania was back in full force.
The Blazers went on to face the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals with Tim Duncan, the actual best power forward in the game even though he was in his early 20s. Now here we are, the Blazers have their long awaited rematch with the Spurs. Tim Duncan is the only player remaining from the 1999 championship team and I wouldn't want it any other way.
This is Aldridge's chance to further solidify himself as the best power forward in the game. Lillard's chance to grow his legend after his amazing first round performance. Batum's chance to challenge Tony Parker as the French ambassador to the NBA. Matthew's chance to show he is one of the best in the league at making winning plays when his team desperately needs it. Lopez's chance to stand as a top flight center. And the bench's chance to show they are deep enough to beat anyone.
To be the best you've got to beat the best. Bring on the Western Conference Champion Top Seeded Spurs!