No Tony Parker, no problem.
The San Antonio Spurs floor general left Wednesday night's Game 5 with an injured left hamstring after 10 ineffective minutes, but it didn't matter—they still rolled to a 104-82 victory to eliminate the Portland Trail Blazers and advance to the Western conference finals.
Kawhi Leonard (22 points, seven rebounds, two assists, five steals) was magnificent on both ends of the court. Tim Duncan (16 points, eight rebounds) was quietly effective as always, and Danny Green (22 points) hit four three-pointers to break out of a shooting slump.
The win entrenches San Antonio in the record books, as WOAI's Don Harris noted:
Spurs make Western Conference Finals for the 3rd straight year. 1st time in team history to do that. Game 1 Monday at the earliest or Wed.— Don Harris (@DonHarris4) May 15, 2014
ESPN Stats & Info added a couple more insane notes:
Spurs will make their 9th conference finals appearance since Tim Duncan joined the team (1997-98), most of any team in that span— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
Duncan, Parker & Ginobili have 109 career playoff wins together, 1 shy of tying Magic, Kareem & Michael Cooper for most wins by a trio— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
Fortunately, as the San Antonio News Express-News' Buck Harvey reported, Parker's injury doesn't sound serious going forward:
From those who know: Parker hamstring "not bad." Available for a Game 6? "We'd have him ready." #spurs— Buck Harvey (@Buck_SA) May 15, 2014
Patty Mills—as he has done all season—made sure the Spurs didn't skip a beat without their electric point guard, finishing with 18 points and three steals in 26 minutes off the bench.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the way for Portland with 21 points, but the Blazers, who shot just 26.3 percent from beyond the arc, turned the ball over 18 times and got eight points off the bench, finally ran out of gas.
Popovich was relieved to be clear of the talented squad, via Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver:
"I'm glad that's over." Gregg Popovich— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 15, 2014
The elimination hardly takes away from an electrifying and much-improved season for Portland, and CBS Sports' Matt Moore offered high praise for Terry Stotts' team:
Portland, you were honestly the most fun team to watch in the NBA this year.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 15, 2014
After a 19-19 first quarter, the Spurs showed off their superior depth, as Mills, Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili and the second unit helped push San Antonio to a 47-32 lead with 3:45 remaining in the half.
The Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers put it simply:
Spurs have five reserves on the floor right now. Tremendous confidence from Pop— kerry eggers (@kerryeggers) May 15, 2014
Of course, as the San Antonio Express-News' Jeff McDonald noted, Leonard, who had 13 points and two steals in the first half, had a little bit to do with the run, as well:
Kawhi Leonard is just killing it. On both ends.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) May 15, 2014
Portland wouldn't fold, though. Behind six quick points from Aldridge and Wesley Matthews' first three-pointer of the game, the Blazers ended the half on a 12-4 run to whittle the spread to seven at intermission.
While Aldridge and Batum led the way with 24 combined points, ESPN Stats & Info pointed out Damian Lillard's immense impact:
Damian Lillard was reponsible for 25 of the Trail Blazers' 44 1st-half points., but Portland still trails by 7— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
The Spurs came out firing in the third quarter, however. Starting the half in place of Parker, Mills sparked an 8-0 run with his energy, and Leonard put the exclamation mark to extend the lead back to 15:
Portland stuck around, but as Leonard continued to dunk the ball like most dunk a tennis ball on a Nerf hoop, and Mills continued to provide a major offensive impact, San Antonio led 77-63 heading into the final period.
ESPN Stats & Info noted a major discrepancy in one area of the game:
Difference in game-- Transition points: Spurs 34, Trail Blazers 7— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
The fourth quarter was nothing but a formality, as the Spurs did whatever they wanted on the offensive side of the ball to turn the game into a rout and sadden Uncle Cliffy:
No!!! My #Blazers!!— Clifford Robinson (@UncleCliffy30) May 15, 2014
It's fishing—or golfing, or sleeping on the couch—time for the Blazers, but the future is still blindingly bright. The starting lineup will remain among the best in the league next season, and if Neil Olshey improves depth through the draft and free agency this summer, Rip City will only climb the extremely difficult West ladder.
Terry Stotts certainly thinks his team is headed in the right direction, per Blazersedge.com's Ben Golliver:
"It was a special year. ... I thought every one of our starters had career years. ... We got a taste of success." Terry Stotts— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 15, 2014
For San Antonio, on the other hand, the future is now.
It's going to be a war next round, but if Parker uses the extra days off to get healthy and the Spurs play like they did this series, they are a strong bet to return to the NBA Finals—no matter who they play.