Suddenly, a snake in the locker room doesn't look all that bad.
On the strength of a 41-point second quarter, the San Antonio Spurs jumped out to a 2-0 series lead against the Portland Trail Blazers with a 114-97 win at home Thursday night.
Before the game, Blazers point guard Mo Williams posted a photo of a snake that had somehow sneaked into Portland's locker room. Little did he know how bad an omen that snake would be:
Next time that happens, the team might want to consult Pedro Cerrano.
Portland held its own in the first quarter, with the score 29-26 in favor of the Spurs. In the second quarter, though, San Antonio exploded offensively, shooting 17-of-27 from the field, including 5-of-7 from three-point range, per NBA on ESPN:
Spurs shot 63% from the field and 71% from 3 in the 2nd. Gregg Popovich can't be happy with that 40% on FTs though. pic.twitter.com/ZtOEK8bVos— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 9, 2014
The 41 points surrendered by the Trail Blazers in the second quarter tied for their worst single quarter in postseason history, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:
The Spurs' 41 2nd Q points are tied for the most allowed by the #Blazers in any quarter in the playoffs in franchise history.— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) May 9, 2014
Just to nail down how efficient San Antonio was offensively, it only needed 25 possessions to score 41 points, per Nate Duncan of BasketballInsiders.com:
41 points in the 2nd for the Spurs. On 25 possessions.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) May 9, 2014
NBA.com's John Schuhmann presented how the Spurs fared on each of their second-quarter possessions:
Spurs' 2nd quarter scoring: pic.twitter.com/4t5yjC6Fj4— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 9, 2014
Schuhmann also illustrated that San Antonio was killing Portland from mid-range. That's the area of the court where the Trail Blazers would've wanted the Spurs to take the majority of their shots, but their plan didn't work at all:
Portland's scheme is designed to force mid-range Js. Doesn't mean the Spurs are going to miss 'em: pic.twitter.com/7msoZxYOVq— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 9, 2014
That strong second quarter essentially won the Spurs the game. They weren't able to replicate their otherworldly production of that second frame, but that didn't matter. From halftime on, San Antonio only needed to be good enough to not squander a 19-point halftime lead.
Portland made things interesting in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to nine points with a little less than seven minutes to go in the game:
Don't count the Blazers out yet. They've cut the Spurs' lead to 9 with 6:40 left in the 4th. #PORvsSA— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 9, 2014
San Antonio failed to maintain its blistering offensive pace in the second half, which opened the door for a Trail Blazers comeback:
Spurs are starting to cool off. As great as their offense is, they weren’t going to hit the shots they did forever.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) May 9, 2014
However, the Spurs found timely shots to maintain a double-digit lead for most of the second half, and the win was never really in doubt.
Kawhi Leonard had been inconsistent in the opening round against the Dallas Mavericks, but for the second game in a row against Portland, he played very well. He led the team with 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
ESPN's J.A. Adande thought that Thursday night was when Leonard finally snapped into beast mode this postseason:
Kawhi Leonard has 14 points in 12 minutes. It's like when the machines became self-aware in the "Terminator" movies— J.A. Adande (@jadande) May 9, 2014
His performance was much-needed considering how poorly Tony Parker shot the ball.
Before the game, Portland head coach Terry Stotts said that stopping Parker in transition would be one of the Trail Blazers' biggest objectives, per NBA.com's Fran Blinebury:
He’s going to get there sometimes. That’s what he does. We had him 5-for-12 on midrange shots. That’s a number we can live with. But 5-for-5 in transition, that’s a number we have to be better with.
We have to keep the ball out of the middle as much as we can. The more we can keep him out of the paint, that takes away opportunities for him and his teammates.
Parker shot only 8-of-19, scoring 16 points. He did add 10 assists to finish with a double-double.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combined for 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. They weren't great on the night but were good enough to earn the victory.
On the other side, LaMarcus Aldridge had a terrible time, especially matched up against Tiago Splitter:
Exactly. Made Dirk work, now Aldridge RT @aaronbruski: Splitter back in, changes entire dynamic of Blazers offense in an instant.— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) May 9, 2014
Aldridge had 16 points and 10 rebounds, but he missed 17 of his 23 field-goal attempts. Damian Lillard also ran into trouble, scoring 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting.
The final score is a bit deceiving, but the Blazers were too sloppy—turning the ball over 13 times—and couldn't get defensive stops in the second half when they were trying to get back into the game.
The series shifts to Portland for Game 3. Tipoff is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night.
The phrase "must-win" is overused, but the Blazers are definitely facing that kind of scenario in Game 3. If they go down 3-0 to the Spurs, that's the series right there. Winning four of the next five games will be hard enough. Going for four in a row against a team like San Antonio is almost impossible.
The Spurs aren't in the clear just yet. They'll want to take at least one game in Portland to ensure the Blazers don't build any momentum in this series.