Now THAT is how you win a basketball game.
The Portland Trail Blazers executed a near-perfect offensive game plan to overwhelm the San Antonio Spurs by 30 points tonight, 136-106. San Antonio's television broadcast crew announced 136 as the most points scored against the Spurs in the history of AT&T Center.
Side Note: Yes, I had the sound down most of the game to avoid hearing Sean Elliot but when the Blazers got up by 17 in the second half I just had to hear his commentary, with his history of being a extraordinary homer and all. To their credit the San Antonio broadcast team made no excuses and gave the Blazers their due.
The Blazers played no interior defense as the game began. San Antonio scored repeatedly at the rim. It made you want to curse Portland's bigs, as the effort just wasn't there. On the other end, though, J.J. Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge returned the favor with interest. Hickson made his patented slashes down the lane for easy scored and Aldridge mixed spins and jumpers for a dozen points in the quarter. Tim Duncan drawing two early fouls and sitting didn't hurt Portland's cause. At the end of the first the damage had pretty much evened out. San Antonio led 29-27.
The Blazers kept the tempo high in the second period, baiting the Spurs into playing frantic and fast. San Antonio is more than capable of winning any which way they choose, but "frantic" and "fast" don't make their preferred adjective list. Hickson continued his offensive pressure against slower San Antonio defenders in the halfcourt. The Blazers kept landing rapid jabs in the form of forced turnovers and run-backs. San Antonio countered with offensive rebound stick-backs, trying to keep the Blazers honest. The Spurs also hired some kind of witch doctor to cast a spell on the floor, causing Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver to roll their ankles within minutes of each other. Neither would return to the game. The teams headed to the locker room knotted at 57 apiece.
The third quarter didn't feature as much streaking down the court. The Blazers played in the halfcourt but kept the ball moving. They shot well and turned the tables on the Spurs, grabbing multiple offensive rebounds. San Antonio looked to be slowing down and Portland just started beating on them. The other major weapon for the Blazers in the period was the three-pointer. The Blazers had the Spurs on the yo-yo. When they sagged inside to watch Hickson and Aldridge then Wesley Matthews or Damian Lillard would can a three. When they came out to guard the three Lillard would drive right by them, hit the teeth of the defense, and either score, get fouled, or find somebody for an open jumper. Portland kept scoring...and scoring...and scoring while the Spurs did a slow owl's blink and wondered how those shots were falling. The quarter climaxed with a back-and-forth show between Lillard and point guard Patty Mills, neither of whom could guard each other a lick. When the smoke cleared the Blazers had posted 33 in the period and the Spurs only 25. Portland led by 8 going into the final stanza.
That's when all heck broke lose.
To describe Portland's fourth quarter would inevitably reduce it. You just have to go back and watch the tape, particularly if you are any kind of Damian Lillard fan. He ripped apart the Spurs again and again, a combination of daring layups and dead-eye jumpers. All the shots that Matthews and Aldridge hit in the third period Portland's reserves made in the fourth...and then some. Eric Maynor had the jumper stuck on automatic. Luke Babbitt hit a three. Hickson and Aldridge added a few more buckets. The net on that end of the court will need Aloe Vera treatments for a week just to get over the swish burn. The Spurs didn't play badly on offense but they couldn't keep up with that. Lillard and Maynor each scored 14 in the period. The Blazers totaled 46. Ballgame.
The stats wrap a bow on the evening. Portland shot 62% from the floor, 62% from the arc, hit 17 of 21 free throws, scored 52 points in the paint to San Antonio's 60, netted 17 fast break points to the Spurs' 14, and fielded the top four scorers in the game. Unbelievable.
Though LaMarcus Aldridge was a culprit defensively he also set the tone on offense, scoring a dozen in the first period and making the Spurs pay attention to him all night long. He finished the night with 26 points on 12-18 shooting with 5 rebounds. It wasn't his best individual game but he set the table for the career nights for the rest of the squad.
J.J. Hickson also confounded the Spurs early and late. If Aldridge drew their attention then Hickson was the first one to blindside them. He makes slower-defending centers look downright glacial. It's not like he puts on fancy moves (though he did have one massive spin move for a layup that made you say, "WHOA!") but how long have the Blazers waited for a center who just knows how to dive to the rim? Flip back through the Rolodex and you'll pretty much end up in the early days of Arvydas Sabonis before you'll find a Portland center who took advantage of those opportunities. Hickson went 9-15, 5-7 from the line, 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Damian Lillard rocks toast. When his shot is on Damian Lillard rocks the whole dang toaster. And man, was he popping hot shots tonight. He penetrated with the dribble and finished like a bottle of Bordeaux. Some of his layups have to be rewound to be appreciated. Then he hit 3-4 from distance, 8-8 from the foul line, and dished 9 assists to go with his 12-20 shooting and 35 points. A pair of steals were the little cherries on top of the sundae. It was the game of the year for him.
Wesley Matthews neither got a lot of shots nor had a lot of great plays tonight. He did one thing really well: hit 5-7 from the three-point arc for 15 points. But that one thing completely broke San Antonio's back when piled on top of the crushing blows from Lillard, Aldridge, and Hickson. Matthews' timely distance shooting made sure that the Spurs were never, ever, EVER coming back in this game.
Nicolas Batum had 8 rebounds, a few nice passes, and a couple great blocks on an otherwise quiet night.
All of Portland's bench players did fine in the minutes they had. Terry Stotts was forced to go deeper down the rotation than usual because of the Leonard and Claver injuries. Plus he had a few minutes of garbage time to split between guys who hadn't seen the floor for a while. Even they made practically all their shots. The key bench guy tonight was Eric Maynor, though. He played 23 minutes with and without Lillard at his side. He sank 8 of 11 shots, 2-3 from distance, dished 6 assists, poked away 2 steals, and scored 20 points. We've seen stretches where Portland's entire bench combined didn't equal that total over two games. It was a magical night for him as well.
As I posted in the GameDay Thread, I made the pledge to donate 10 tickets to send underprivileged kids to Blazer's Edge Night on April 17th if the Blazers won this game. They won by 30, so I figure I owe more. I hereby up that pledge to 15 because the basketball gods were so generous in giving back. I haven't read the thread yet but I hope many of you also said you'd exchange ticket donations for a Portland win and were amply repaid. If you didn't get a chance to commit in the GameDay Thread, don't you think it's time to do so now? We just saw the game of the season, a wholly unexpected, fun-filled, crushing blowout of the best team in the league in their own building. Perhaps that goodness will extend far enough for you to send a kid or two to what could be the only Blazer game they get to see in person? The deadline for tickets is rapidly approaching. CLICK HERE to find out how you can share this fun with an underprivileged child or youth. You can read about the difference it makes HERE.
Take a picture of this Boxscore, frame it, and hang it above your fireplace!
Tonight's GameDay Thread ought to be fun to read and Timmay's Instant Recap too!
Pounding The Rock will now pick their collective jaws up off the floor, summarily proclaim Damian Lillard as Rookie of the Year, and get back to rooting for the best team ever. Provided, of course, that the best team ever doesn't get beheaded by Gregg Popovich in tomorrow's film session.
Portland Trail Blazers tickets