The San Antonio Spurs were heading home no matter what, but now the Portland Trail Blazers are going to be joining them.
Shaking aside a nightmarish start to the series, the Blazers avoided the sweep on Monday night, using a big second half to roll to a 103-92 Game 4 victory at the Moda Center.
Prior to the game, Nicolas Batum explained Portland's mindset, via the team's official Twitter feed:
Well, he played like it.
The sixth-year small forward continued to fill up the box score as he has all series long, tallying 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists while leading a dominant second-half effort to keep the Blazers alive.
Damian Lillard (25 points) and LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points) led the way in the scoring department, Robin Lopez (12 rebounds, six offensive) controlled the glass and Will Barton was key off the bench, pouring in 17 points in a fill-in role for Mo Williams. The win snaps Portland's long postseason skid against the Spurs, via ESPN Stats & Info:
Tony Parker led a balanced Spurs effort with 14 points, but San Antonio shot just 16.7 percent from beyond the arc and gave up 14 offensive rebounds in the loss.
As ESPN Stats & Info added, it was a historically bad effort on the interior for the Spurs under Gregg Popovich:
The Blazers led for a total of just 33 seconds through the first three games of the series, but they multiplied that mark by about 36-fold in the first half alone, leading for just over 20 minutes total on their way to a 50-48 advantage at the break.
Unsurprisingly, Lillard and Aldridge were at the forefront of the team's first hot start of the series. LA had seven points in the first quarter, while the second-year point guard made plays like this to provide a spark at the end of the second:
The duo combined for 21 first-half points, and the San Antonio Express-News' Jeff McDonald joked about the contrast from the first three games:
With a three ball to open the second half, Lillard set some history, as the team's PR Twitter feed noted:
However, as the defensive focus shifted towards Portland's two biggest stars, Batum and Lopez took over. Terry Stotts went to the pick-and-roll well, as Batum found his big center for four layups in a span of five minutes.
As The Oregonian's Jason Quick pointed out, the other Frenchman was nearing a triple-double with a healthy amount of time left in the third quarter:
Batum, who pulled down nine rebounds in the first half, did a little bit of everything after the break, and a four-point play with 4:50 remaining in the third period opened the floodgates for a 14-3 Blazers run that essentially put the game away.
A major reason behind the 35-20 third quarter was behind-the-arc production, as Yahoo Sports' Dan Devine noted:
The fourth quarter was mostly a formality, with the Spurs never cutting the lead below double-digits and Pop resting his starters—Parker and Tim Duncan didn't see the court for the final 14 minutes of the game.
History suggests this kind of success isn't sustainable—no NBA team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a series.
However, with Aldridge and Lillard resembling their first-round form, and Barton and Thomas Robinson providing important production off the pine, stealing Game 5 in San Antonio on Wednesday night isn't out of the realm of possibility. Should the Blazers do that, they would be looking at a home game to force a Game 7.
It's undoubtedly a tall task, especially with the Spurs likely to bounce back, but for now, the Blazers refused to roll over and have instilled some hope in Rip City.