After watching the San Antonio Spurs take seven games to dispatch the Dallas Mavericks in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs, it was easy to see in the potent Portland Trail Blazers the potential for an epic upset.
Three convincing Spurs wins later, we’re left admitting—for roughly the 6,000th time in the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era—we had these old warhorses figured wrong.
Here’s Popovich explaining during a Sunday media session:
Interesting stuff from Pop today: "In a way, we were more ready to play against Portland than we were against Dallas ...."— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 11, 2014
Pop: "We were a little discombobulated down the stretch in the regular season because of schedule and resting a few players."— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 11, 2014
Pop: "Then, by the time we'd played seven games (with DAL) we were back to our normal rhythm we were used to going into the Portland series"— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 11, 2014
That all sounds totally logical. And I’m not just saying that because of the elaborate Pop shrine I just put in the garage, which consists mainly of smoked meats and pictures of him not smiling.
The Spurs are squarely in the driver’s seat in their best-of-seven series, having made easy work of the hapless Blazers in each of their three meetings.
This, to put it lightly, does not bode well for Portland:
Since Tim Duncan joined Spurs, they've been up 3-0 in playoff series 10 times. Closed out the sweep in Game 4 on seven occasions.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 11, 2014
Portland is sometimes known colloquially as Rip City, so you knew this was bound to happen: a story titled "The night Rip City turned into R.I.P. City." Thank you, Jason Quick of The Oregonian:
I'm not sure anybody believes the Blazers can become the first team in NBA history to win a series after losing the first three. Especially not against these Spurs.
No, the Blazers had to have Game 3 if they were going to have any chance in this series. And everybody knew it.
But once again, they didn’t stand a chance.
The teams have played 144 minutes of basketball in this series. The Blazers have led for 33 seconds: a three-point lead for 16 seconds in the first quarter of Game 2, and a one-point lead for 17 seconds in the first quarter of Game 3.
In terms of darkness, that right there makes True Detective look like Air Bud.
If you’re Portland—and you know what, sometimes clichés exist for a reason—you have to take it one game at a time.
Playoff momentum is a fickle beast indeed, capable of turning on the quickest of heads. Even if their efforts are in nothing more than valiant vain, however, stealing a few from the Spurs will only bode well for Portland, young and upside-laden as it is.
For San Antonio, meanwhile, it’s a simple steady as she goes. The Blazers have had absolutely no answers for the swashbuckling savvy of Tony Parker—a puzzle no one, least of all the defensively limited Damian Lillard, appears even remotely capable of solving.
You might as well chalk that up to the Dallas series, too.