Tony Parker led the way for the Spurs. He finished with 33 points and nine assists, his second consecutive 30-point game. Damien Lillard, the All-Star Blazers point guard, was outmatched throughout and finished with 17 points on just 6-for-15 shooting.
If the Blazers have any chance of winning the series, they must turn things around quickly against the veteran Spurs.
Here are the three key themes of the social chatter after the Spurs’ impressive victory:
Trail Blazers Bench Cannot Compete with the Spurs Bench
In Game 1, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Trail Blazers' bench 50-18, even with just two points from Manu Ginobili.
To some, this staggering result may have been expected. The Spurs have always had depth, while the Blazers have not, and this statistic is further evidence of the Spurs’ advantage:
Gregg Popovich has limited the minutes of his aging starters all season, so it is logical that the Spurs bench leads the league in scoring.
However, the Blazers have a significant disadvantage with their poor bench. They have survived this long thanks to the outstanding play (and considerable minutes) of their starters.
In Game 1, the Blazers starters struggled greatly.
LaMarcus Aldridge was the only starter with a solid game and finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds. The rest of the Blazers starters combined for just 42 points, which will simply not cut it if they have such a poor bench and are facing the Spurs in playoffs mode.
In all likelihood, the Blazers starters are just wiped out from logging so many minutes all season.
Blazers starters played more minutes than any other team’s starters, so fatigue is certainly a factor.
In fact, four of the five starters ranked in the top 10 in their position in minutes played. Their fifth starter, shooting guard Wesley Matthews, was tied for 11th.
If fatigue did play a role in Game 1, the Blazers need the bench to step up and take pressure off the starters. Yet there is also an impetus on the starters themselves to improve on their Game 1 performance.
Don’t tell any of this to Aldridge, though, as he seems fully aware of the minutes he may have to log for the Blazers to compete:
For the Blazers to come back in Game 2, either the bench must improve or the starters must play with more consistency to take pressure off the bench. Or both.
Trail Blazers Are Showing Their Youth
The Blazers—playing in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000—are one of the youngest teams in the league.
The Blazers starters combine for an average age of 25.8. The Spurs, who have quietly been the most ruthlessly efficient team of the past decade, are a combined average age of 29.2 in Game 1. Without the 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard, the rest of the Spurs starters had an average age of 31.0.
Quite simply, the Blazers were outplayed all game by the veteran Spurs, who seem to make a deep playoff run each year.
As the below shot chart portrays, the Spurs came out of the gate and played a poised, efficient first half:
The Blazers were overwhelmed in the first half, possibly because they were on such a big stage and trying to force results.
Regardless, no team is going to defeat the Spurs if they begin the game 3-for-20 on shooting, as the Blazers did in Game 1.
To make matters even tougher for the Blazers, they let a number of role players for the Spurs walk all over them.
Barely-used center Aron Baynes, a former Australian League basketball player, torched the Blazers for 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting, as well as seven rebounds in just 15 minutes of play. Marco Belinelli finally found his stroke, finishing with 19 points.
As you can see below, Belinelli dictated the game when he had the ball. He found a way to get his high-percentage shots and converted them.
Parker and future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan are already enough for the Blazers to try to handle. If Belinelli continues this hot streak, the Blazers may have already lost the series.
As for Baynes, his game is likely an anomaly. He only played because the game turned into such a big blowout.
But that didn’t stop some from having a little fun playing with his surprising numbers from Game 1:
Popovich had all of his players ready and focused on the stage, while the Blazers looked in over their heads.
The Blazers must learn on the fly how to beat such an experienced Spurs team.
Tony Parker is Unstoppable Right Now
Somehow, Tony Parker seems to fly under-the-radar in the discussion of the NBA’s best point guard.
That may change by the end of this postseason.
In the last two games, Parker has been very aggressive on offense and scoring in bunches. Take a look at Parker’s shot chart from the first quarter of Game 1:
Parker schooled Lillard all game. Lillard has quickly become a top point guard in the league, but he does not have significant playoff experience yet.
Parker, with years of playoff experience, was able to stay composed throughout the game and put up gaudy numbers.
He is currently on an impressive two-game streak:
There are fewer players on a hotter streak right now than Parker. Lillard may be inexperienced this deep in the playoffs, but Parker deserves a lot of credit for his play.
After the Spurs sent a message in Game 1, the Twitterverse appears to be in favor of the Spurs routing the Blazers for the rest of the series.
Stats provided from ESPN.com, nba.com
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