Apr 23, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) is defended by Portland Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith (4) during the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE
The San Antonio Spurs locked in the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs by cleaning the Portland Trail Blazers' clock, 124-89 Monday night, passing for a season high 34 assists and shooting 59 percent from the field.
Danny Green hit a three-pointer from the left wing to open the scoring for the Spurs. Two minutes later, he did it again from the same spot. On the next possession, after a Luke Babbitt miss, the Blazers failed to pick up Tony Parker in transition despite everyone being back. Babbitt took a step, maybe two, up the lane to show on the screen. Parker zipped a pass past him to a now wide-open Tim Duncan for an easy jam, making the score 8-0. The Spurs never looked back.
San Antonio won every single quarter, outshooting Portland 59 percent to 39 percent. The Blazers last mini-run in the fourth quarter, after cutting the Spurs lead to 20, 91-71, ended when DeJuan Blair caught a pass in the lane and immediately made a fine pass back out behind him to a waiting Matt Bonner, who then deposited his only basket of the night, a three-pointer that triggered the 12-0 run that crushed Portland for good.
Portland was led by Wesley Matthews, who somehow played 45 minutes in this mess and scored 24 points on 34 shots. Raymond Felton (13 points, seven assists) returned from missing the past four games but couldn't get it going, making only five of 16 shots.
The Blazers, eliminated from playoff consideration a week ago, are in full shutdown mode, losing six in a row, eight of their last 10, and playing without LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Jamal Crawford. Sensing weakened prey and with home court in the West riding on it, the Spurs capitalized, avenging a 137-97 thrashing at the hands of Portland earlier in the season for good measure.
The Spurs played everybody on the active list and placed six players in double-digit scoring, led by Green and Duncan, who both scored 18 points. Boris Diaw, just inserted into the starting lineup, paid immediate dividends, giving out six assists and pulling in seven rebounds to go with his six points. The six assists tied for team high with Tony Parker, who played only 22 minutes in the one-sided affair.
Dave from Blazer's Edge says it was all downhill from the start:
The Blazers played some surprisingly good interior defense early, getting a few blocks, rebounds, and turnovers. But the Blazers also started the game shooting 2-15. How long was that defense going to last, really? Not even a quarter as it turned out. But the bad shooting lasted all night long. The Spurs led 31-18 after the first quarter. Their second unit owned any lineup the Blazers could throw out there. The Spurs won the second quarter 32-23, the third 28-24, and the final one 33-24 to win going away, 124-89.
Edg5 at Pounding the Rock found the one downtick in the gameflow for the Spurs:
After a few lapses in judgement in the second quarter that allowed the Blazes to close the gap to 9 points (28-37), Gregg Popovich called a time out to remind his players to take the game seriously. The Spurs responded by closing the quarter with a 26-13 run that effectively ended the game.
For all of Monday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.