PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (58-30)
at SAN ANTONIO SPURS (66-23)
NBA Playoffs - Western Conference Semifinals
Tip-off: Tuesday, 9:35 p.m. ET
Line: San Antonio -6.5, Total: 205.5
After a thrilling series win to begin the playoffs, the Trail Blazers look to build on that momentum when they visit the Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Portland knocked Houston out of the postseason in dramatic fashion in Friday's Game 6, as Damian Lillard hit a three-pointer at the buzzer in a 99-98 win to clinch the series win. Now the team goes up against the top-seeded San Antonio club that was taken to seven games in a series it wrapped up with a blowout 119-96 win over Dallas on Sunday. These two teams split the regular-season series, with both teams taking a game on the other teamís court. Over the past three seasons, the series is an even 5-5 (SU and ATS) with the Spurs holding a slim 3-2 advantage (SU and ATS). Although San Antonio won the most recent meeting on March 12 by a score of 103-90, the Blazers are a perfect 7-0 ATS on the road when revenging a road loss versus an opponent this season and 21-11 ATS revenging a loss where the opponent scored at least 100 points. Portland has one of the best offenses in the NBA, and the offense has been clicking this postseason with 111.7 PPG on 45.4% FG. But the weakness this season has been the defense that ranked 22nd in the league in points allowed and surrendered 112.0 PPG in the series win over the Rockets. However, the Blazers are an excellent road team (25-19 SU, 27-17 ATS) and enter this series with a 13-3 SU mark (8-8 ATS) in their past 16 games. But to get a win in this series, they are going to have stop one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA. The Spurs ranked sixth in the league in scoring (105.4 PPG) in large part because of terrific passing, ranking first in the league in assists (25.2 APG). They also ranked first in the league in shooting (48.6% from the field). San Antonio was able to post 103.1 PPG on 49.7% FG (38.3% threes) in its first-round series, but dished out only 19.9 APG with 13.7 TOPG. The club also had a lot of success scoring against the Trail Blazers this season, averaging 104.8 PPG on 46.9% FG and 42.5% threes. The Spurs have been a great home team SU (35-10), but are just 21-24 ATS at AT&T Center. But they are also 38-13 ATS in the past three seasons after scoring 105+ points in two straight games. There are no significant injuries for either team. These two teams have terrific offenses, which should make for another exciting series.
PF LaMarcus Aldridge (29.8 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.7 BPG in playoffs) was an absolute beast throughout the entire first-round series, especially the first two road games when he averaged 44.5 PPG, becoming only the third player in NBA history to score 40+ in a teamís first two road games. During the regular season, Aldridge played well against San Antonio with 21.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.0 BPG. He has a quickness advantage on both Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, and if Aldridge is hitting the mid-range jumper, he could have another big series. PG Damian Lillard (25.5 PPG, 6.7 APG, 6.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG in playoffs) has had a terrific playoff debut, complete with a series-clinching three-pointer at the end of the game against Houston. He also played very well in the season series with San Antonio when he averaged 25.0 PPG (47% FG), 6.3 APG and 5.3 RPG. Lillard has emerged as one of the top point guards in the NBA, and is especially lethal in the pick-and-roll game. If there is a point guard to compare him to, Tony Parker may be that guy. They both are under control at all times running the offense, but Lillard is more athletic and a much better shooter this early in his career. The Trail Blazers can always count on Aldridge and Lillard to produce, but to win the series, SG Wes Matthews (15.3 PPG, 1.7 SPG in playoffs) and SF Nicolas Batum (15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.2 APG in playoffs) are going to have to play like they did against Houston. Matthews had to guard James Harden for the majority of the first-round series, and that caused him to use a lot of energy on the defensive end. In this series, Matthews will not have as tough of a matchup, which could help him on the offensive end. During the regular-season series with San Antonio, Matthews averaged 18.8 PPG (50% FG) and 4.5 RPG, while Batum tallied a double-double (10.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG) plus 6.3 APG and 1.0 BPG. C Robin Lopez (9.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.7 BPG in playoffs) and PF Thomas Robinson (2.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG in 9.7 MPG in playoffs) arenít going to do a ton in the scoring department, but are both terrific rebounders that can block a some shots. If these two can play well, the Trail Blazers have a great chance to win this series.
The Spurs had a very difficult time with the Mavericks in the last series, but showed in Game 7 that they are still a legitimate championship contender. PG Tony Parker (19.9 PPG, 4.7 APG in playoffs) is the leader of this team, and is at his best when he is attacking the paint. He will be guarded by a lot of different Trail Blazers, but he will use the pick-and-roll the entire game. Parker really struggled offensively in the regular season against the Trail Blazers with 12.7 PPG on 36% FG, but also contributed 6.0 APG and 5.0 RPG. PF Tim Duncan (17.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG in playoffs) continues to play just like he did in the start of his career. The 38-year-old creates an interesting matchup against Aldridge as he will try and pull him out of the lane, opening up the driving lanes for the guards. In the season series with Portland, Duncan played pretty well with 15.7 PPG (48% FG) and 8.3 RPG. Like the Blazers, San Antonio will need to get big performances from its supporting cast, especially SF Kawhi Leonard (11.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG in playoffs) and SG Manu Ginobili (17.7 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.7 RPG in playoffs). In the last postseason Ginobili really struggled (11.5 PPG on 39.9% FG), but showed in the first round he is back to his old form, draining 45% FG and 38% threes. Ginobili also shot well versus the Blazers this season with 17.3 PPG on 48% FG and 46% threes. Leonard will also be needed on the defensive end, as he is the club's most versatile defender. Look for him to possibly guard Lillard at the end of games if the score is close. C Tiago Splitter (10.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG in playoffs) had a great series against the Mavericks, making 62% FG, but shot just 41% FG in three games versus Portland this season, averaging 9.0 PPG and 6.7 RPG against them.