The Portland Trail Blazers were eliminated from the 2022 NBA Playoffs tonight, losing to the San Antonio Spurs 130-111. San Antonio jumped on top of Portland early, kept the offense in third gear, and cruised to an easy win.
Keon Johnson led the Blazers with 20 points. San Antonio put 8 players in double figures, led by Devin Vassell with 22.
If you missed the action, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, here are a couple other pieces of analysis from the game.
The tank has been in full effect, and it’s hard to describe the level of abject futility every time the Blazers take the floor. We can talk about the hind end of the Jailblazers era, but in 2005 they still had Zach Randolph, Travis Outlaw, Darius Miles, and Jarrett Jack. You’d have to go back to 1971-72 to find this much losing, and it’s probably the worst basketball played in Portland’s uniform since that year...maybe ever. At this point, they’re doing nothing well, except for isolated spurts. The energy they had a month ago lasts for about 10 minutes now. The league has caught up to them and then some...not that they need to. We just need to stop for a minute and acknowledge how bad “Bad” really is right now. In its own way, it’s amazing.
Second Quarter Disaster
The second period was an unmitigated disaster for Portland. Every Spurs player who sneezed sideways was WIDE open. They dunked, hit threes...the defensive breakdown was total. San Antonio went on a 10-0 run instantly, and it only got worse from there. By the 4:00 mark, the Spurs were up 20, shooting 62% from the field, and had assists on 18 of 23 made buckets. Portland was doing nothing good defensively.
Then the whistles started blowing San Antonio’s way, a product of a hopelessly outmatched Blazers defense. At that point, Portland was worse than done.
And THEN the Spurs started hitting threes. Because, why not.
Cumulatively, this was like getting caught in a storm with hail the size of Volkswagens. San Antonio began the second on a 10-0 run, ended it on an 8-0 run, and did a lot of smashy-smashy in between. It was one of the most spectacularly impotent stretches for Portland in recent memory.
No More Advantages
When we described the roster as “gritty” and “energy-filled”, they keyed on a couple advantages. The offensive glass was their playground. They generated fast-break points, many off of turnovers. Those are basically gone, now. Portland did finish +4 in offensive rebounds, but only +2 in fast break points and +3 in turnovers. Those advantages weren’t even close to changing the outcome.
Nowhere is Portland’s disadvantage more apparent than when the opponent roams the paint. Drew Eubanks is trying. Reggie Perry too. They’re just not tall enough, nor can they (or anyone) survive getting beat on the entire game by bigger players.
Portland knows it. They often collapse into the lane, desperately trying to stop taller players from getting up shots or grabbing boards. It’s a special kind of painful to watch them abandoning the three-point arc, yet not inhibit the opponent a bit inside. Tonight the Spurs began by ramming the ball into the lane, scoring nearly at will. Then they flicked it outside for threes so open, they might as well have been taken in one of those summer workout videos.
San Antonio scored 52 in the paint tonight while shooting 43.2% from the arc. I don’t know how you get anywhere close to competitive when that happens. Portland wasn’t.
For those who missed the pre-game announcement, this loss eliminates Portland from playoffs contention officially. They’re 5 games behind the Spurs for 10th place in the West with 5 games remaining. Even if Portland were to win all of their remaining games and San Antonio to lose theirs, the two teams would end up tied. Portland can no longer pass the Spurs in the standings.
The best win-loss scenario for the Blazers would leave them even with the Spurs for 10th place. (Portland can’t get into 9th anymore.) San Antonio would win that tie by virtue of head-to-head record whether it was a one-on-one matchup with Portland or whether the Lakers and/or Kings (the other teams in range) got involved. Thus San Antonio would end up in 10th, in the Play-In Tournament, while Portland finished 11th, outside of the playoffs picture.
Tuesday, May 17th is the official date of the 2022 NBA Lottery Drawing. Portland fans will now have a vested interest in the outcome.
The Blazers take on the Spurs again on Sunday afternoon with a 4:00 PM, Pacific start time.