The first round of the NBA’s Western Conference playoffs were one of the most competitive opening rounds in the history of the league. Both the Spurs and Trailblazers had to fight tooth and nail to advance to the West Semi-Finals.
How They Got Here
The Portland Trailblazers knocked off the fourth seeded Houston Rockets in six games in their opening round series. LaMarcus Aldridge got things started for Portland, as he scored more than 40 points in his first two playoff games, and led the Blazers to a 2-0 start in the series.
After the Rockets stormed back to eventually force a game six, it was Damian Lillard providing the dagger for the Blazers. Down by two with less than a second left in the game, Lillard knocked down the biggest shot of his career to advance his team to the second round.
The San Antonio Spurs took on long their time rival Dallas Mavericks in the first round. Despite being an eighth seed, the Mavericks gave the Spurs all they could handle in the opening round of the playoffs.
After a Vince Carter buzzer beater gave the Mavericks a 2-1 edge in the series, the first seeded Spurs eventually forced a decisive game seven on their home court. In game seven the Spurs put together one of their best performances of this season, as they dismantled the Mavericks 119-96.
The match-up to watch in this series will be at the point guard position. Damian Lillard’s three-pointer in game six carried his team to the second round, while Tony Parker’s 32 points led the Spurs past the Mavericks in their game seven.
Much of both team’s offense flows through their point guards, and both Parker and Lillard have demonstrated in this year’s playoffs that they are not afraid to take the big shot. Lillard is averaging 25.5 points and 6.7 assists per game in 44.7 minutes of action in the playoffs, while Parker is averaging 19.9 points and 4.7 assists in just 33 minutes per game.
As both point guards are known more for their offensive potency rather than their defensive tenacity, this match up between floor generals may lead to some high scoring shootouts. The team that comes out ahead in this series will likely win the battle of the point guards.
While the Spurs are looking for redemption for their game seven loss in the finals last year, the Blazers are a young team that are hungry for success. Despite having an easier time in the first round, Portland will enter this series as the underdogs and will likely thrive in that role.
The Trailblazers showed that they can keep pace with the Spurs during the regular season, as the two split their regular season series at two. This series will be a classic case of the old vs the new. The Spurs big three of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are all over the age of 31, while the entire starting five of the Trailblazers are under the age of 30.
Portland showed in round one that if their outside shooters are on point, they are a difficult team to stop. While the Spurs have one of the most efficient offenses in the league, the Blazers have one of the most explosive. Expect the Spurs to be unable to keep up with the Blazers fast paced offense, as Portland takes the series in six games.
Every opening round series in the Western Conference went to at least game six, and the competition will only get tougher as the rounds advance. Portland and San Antonio is sure to be an exciting match up between two offensive giants.
Commentary By Eric Kummel