Blazers take time to relax, get Spurs for next round

Portland players well aware of their next challenge

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer

Published:

 

TUALATIN, Ore. — When Damian Lillard’s three-pointer went in at the buzzer at the end of Game 6, he sent a fan base, a city, a region and the basketball world into a sleepless excitement.

The Blazers, however, relaxed with ease.

LaMarcus Aldridge was on his couch.

The All-Star forward who began the postseason with back-to-back 40-point games, put his feet up while watching shows saved on his DVR and eating.

“That’s my release,” Aldridge said.

“I don’t get out much but I do know that I got a lot of thumbs up over the last couple of days,” said head coach Terry Stotts about his last 48 hours.

And these Blazers don’t have to be the well-aged San Antonio Spurs, their opponent in the next round of the NBA playoffs, to appreciate the value of extra rest.

“Whenever you can gain some rest no matter if you are young are old, it’s certainly welcome,” Stotts added later.

Wesley Matthews — one known to go sleepless himself at times due to excitement before a regular season game — feels that he knew that the Rip City faithful enjoyed the win but are ready to move forward.

“I went home. I didn’t see any craziness. I know it’s buzzing,” Matthews said. “I know the excitement is there, I know they are wanting to see who we want to face, too.”

What nobody knew then was who the Blazers would be facing and the answer from Sunday’s Game 7 in San Antonio was definitive.

The Spurs delivered a stern reminder of why they are the defending Western Conference champions by dismantling the Dallas Mavericks by 23 points.

The play of point guard Tony Parker — teammate with Portland’s Nicolas Batum on the French National Team — was clinical and their defense was suffocating against a Dallas offense that was one of the most potent all season.

Nicolas Batum offered his assessment of the Spurs when asked about both teams.

“The Spurs are playing great. Got 62 wins this year, we know what they have done the last 10 years,” he said. “The same players, same coaching staff. This team knows how to play in the playoffs, this team is built for the playoff so we know it won’t be easy if we face them.”

The Blazers began their Spurs preparation on the flight to San Antonio, which they jumped on after the location of Game 1 was finalized, but it’s not as if the two teams are unfamiliar with each other.

In fact, the Blazers — and Portland in particular — has been a tough place for the Spurs to play over recent years and the two split the season series this year.

But judging the Spurs solely-based on regular season performance when they rest their players and hardly over extend any player, young or old, is a frivolous task.

As Batum said, they are built for the playoffs and judging the way the Blazers have only referred to the Spurs with ultimate respect is indicative of how serious they will treat this series.

Aldridge’s childhood idol was Tim Duncan and he’s studied film of the four-time champion.

Batum got a text from his friend Parker following Game 6: “Said he was happy for us and see you next week.”

Game 1 will be on Tuesday in San Antonio with a game every other day.

“Now the excitement is starting to creep in,” said Matthews. “We want to go out there and match-up and see where our destiny lies.”

WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

San Antonio vs. Portland

(x-if necessary)

Tuesday, May 6: Portland at San Antonio, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)

Thursday, May 8: Portland at San Antonio, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Saturday, May 10: San Antonio at Portland, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Monday, May 12: at San Antonio at Portland, 7:30 p.m. (TNT)

x-Wednesday, May 14: Portland at San Antonio, TBD (TNT)

x-Friday, May 16: San Antonio at Portland, TBD (ESPN)

x-Monday, May 19: Portland at San Antonio, TBD (TNT)

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