“Experience” is one thing. This? This is just ridiculous:
Portland as a franchise has played in 218 playoff games. Tim Duncan has played in 218 playoff games by himself. Thats nuts.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) May 5, 2014
We’re not sure what’s crazier: that Tim Duncan has played in as many playoff games as an entire NBA team—a playoff team, meaning they have, like, good, experienced players—or that Tim Duncan has played in 218 playoff games.
Vast, vast disparity in experience aside, the conference semifinals matchup between the Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers promises to be one of the more intriguing series of the playoffs—a postseason which, if you haven’t been paying attention, has already flown well past 10 on the bonkers scale.
Fresh off an impressive six-game win over the Houston Rockets in Round 1, the Blazers have the look of a genuine contender in the making. But it was the way they won—narrowly, but with the steely resolve of, well, a team like the Spurs—that has NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury wondering whether Portland’s promise has arrived ahead of schedule:
It was one thing for the Blazers to tell themselves for the prior six months that this season things were going to be different. But when Lillard's rainbow hit the bottom of the net and all of his teammates were able to dance and hug and scream up and down the court, it was tangible proof.
The Rockets led for the lion's share of the total minutes in the six games of the series, but the Blazers always found a way to make the difference-making plays down the stretch.
On Sunday, we took a look at whether or not Portland’s youth-laden legs might be poised to pose a serious challenge to the grizzled gang from San Antonio. Here's what Duncan and Manu Ginobili had to say—however strategically tongue-in-cheak—about their forthcoming foes:
Manu on Portland: As tough a team we can face. They were a five seed that played most of the season as a three.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 5, 2014
Tim Duncan admits Portland not a great matchup for Spurs. "But they've got to match up with us too "— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 5, 2014
The two teams split their season series, with Portland taking the first two, the Spurs nabbing the latter pair and each winning on the other’s home floor.
Duncan in particular is fixin’ to have his hands full with LaMarcus Aldridge, who looked like a certifiable MVP for much of the Houston series and around whom the Blazers have cobbled an effective, three-happy offense.
Then again, there’s a reason the Spurs raced to a league-best (and franchise record-tying) 62-win regular season and the postseason’s No. 1 overall seed.
San Antonio’s story might begin and end with the Duncan-Gregg Popovich pairing, but when you rummage through the roster’s playoff experience and realize you’ve never counted that high in your life, you can’t help but feel a tinge of fear for the other guys.