Lillard: Stopping big runs
SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs proved why they are a fascinating, well-oiled, attention to detail running machine. Their execution is clean and crisp. They run their sets and get into them with plenty of time to go through their options.
But what was blatantly noticeable during their 114-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to go up 2-0 in the series is how they got their guys open shots and quality paths to the basket. It’s not rocket science. In order to free someone up, there has to be one of those body-to-body clashes that you seldom see anymore.
Damian Lillard explains exactly what that annoying contact is termed in the game of basketball. It’s a tactic the Spurs do often and so well.
“Their screens hurt. They actually set real screens,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “They do a great job of setting and holding screens. It wears you down. Chasing Tony Parker is one thing. Getting hit every single time is another thing. It takes a toll on you.”
Lillard did register 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in 41 minutes, but he was only eight-of-20 from the floor. He was six-of-15 in the Game 1 loss. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are experiencing the pounding, as well.
The Spurs don’t play favorites.
However, Lillard is expected to carry much of the load on the offensive end in order to give his team a fighting chance in this series. Getting bumped and popped from neck-popping screens doesn’t bode well for Portland if they intend to get their All-Star point guard going offensively.
“It makes you tired,” Lillard said. “When you’re tired from chasing him (Parker) around down there, it’s tough to come down on the offensive end and get much done when you’re wore down. It’s hard. I’ve got to do a better job at avoiding screens. That’s a challenge that we’re all going to have to accept.”
You can only watch in astonishment at the organization and structure of the Spurs’ system. No matter whom they plug in, the job gets done. Arron Baynes came off the bench in Game 1 and erupted for 1o point and seven rebounds in 15 minutes of play. Thursday, Coach Gregg Popovich didn’t play him until there was 1:38 left in the game.
Not only is the system highly efficient, it’s unpredictable.
“They are the best executing team in the NBA,” Batum said after posting numbers of 21 points, nine rebounds and two assists. “You have to give them credit. They know how to run their stuff and you take a beating.”
Where do the Trail Blazers go from here? Well, first of all, they head back home battered and bruised. Mo Williams had to come out of the game with a nagging groin injury and did not return. The Spurs’ bench scored 50 points for the second straight game with Portland putting up 19 points.
It’s a mental and physical beating the Trail Blazers are taking. Secondly, they have to believe they can beat this team. LaMarcas Aldridge said postgame that “they’re beatable,” and he refereed to the two wins they secured against them in the regular season.
But this isn’t the regular season. It’s the playoffs. And the Spurs know how to play in the months of May and June.
“I think guys are just looking forward to going home and getting back on track,” LaMarcus Aldridge said. “Going home will be good for us. It’s about growth. We haven’t been down 2-0. We went to Houston and won two. That whole series was different. This is new territory for us and we have to live and learn from it. ”
Tomorrow should be a maintenance day for the Trail Blazers because they’ll need it. Bodies are banged up like never before. The Spurs aren’t known for being overly physical but that’s what happens when you play the game the right way and actually set solid picks. When executed properly, they hurt.
“Some teams are really good screeners but I think the fact that they execute so well with everything they do with the screens and how their guys come off of them makes it difficult,” Lillard said. “It’s going to be an ongoing challenge.”