They say that every long journey begins with one step and one way or another the Portland Trailblazers took a step in the right direction on Monday night with a convincing 103-92 victory in Game 4. It may be one step towards the biggest comeback in NBA history since no team has ever come back from down 3-0 in a series to win it. Or it may simply be a nice second round win in front of the home crowd that the team can use to build for their very bright future.
For Portland there were two things that had to be done in order for them to win. The first was to stop San Antonio from going on a huge run in the first half that forces Portland to dig out of yet another big hole. By holding the Spurs to only 48 first half points they met that requirement. While 48 is still a relatively high number it pales into the first half scoring from the first three games. The second was that they needed to find a way to stay in front of Tony Parker and at least slow him down. Parker was held to 14 points after scoring 29 or more in 3 of the last 4 games. While it was a total team effort to stop Parker the primary responsibilities fell to Parker's fellow Frenchman Nicholas Batum who was spectacular in every aspect of the game. He defended Parker and used his length to disrupt his timing. He also contributed 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists in what was arguably the best all around performance in the playoffs thus far. Damian Lillard reminded the world how special a player he is and is going to be with 25 points and 5 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge had a quiet game by his standards with 19 points and 4 rebounds. Robin Lopez had 9 points and 12 rebounds. Wesley Matthew had 10 points and 8 rebounds. Portland also got a much needed boost from the bench, which had been virtually nonexistent prior to game 4, with Will Barton's 17 points and 6 rebounds in 30 minutes of playing time.
The Spurs looked normal for the first time this series. Parker was the teams leading scorer with his 14 points. Tim Duncan had 12 points and 9 rebounds and Kawhi Leonard had 11 points and 7 rebounds to round out the starters in double figures. None of the starting unit played more than 27 minutes as Coach Greg Popovich looked to realize early on that this wasn't his teams night.
Portland has the talent in its starting group, but will need Barton and perhaps Thomas Robinson to give them productive minutes off the bench if they are going to win game 5 and get a chance to play game 6 in front of the home crowd. They will need to find a way to contain Parker again as well as get LaMarcus Aldridge more involved. The way they start the game is critical to their success.
For more NBA Playoff betting odds: