Blazers likely to be without Williams for Game 3

Watson, Barton expected to fill void vs. Spurs

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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The Portland Trail Blazers already trail the San Antonio Spurs 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals. Friday, they were dealt another blow.

Portland's head coach Terry Stotts said the Blazers will likely be without backup point guard Mo Williams, who is sixth on the team in minutes.

Williams suffered a groin injury in Thursday's Game 2 loss.

"We anticipate that he will not play tomorrow night and that's the only update," Stotts said.

Of course the matter of who will play the 24 minutes that Williams averages is something Stotts has already thought about. Williams missed the second half of Thursday's game.

"Well I would assume that Earl (Watson) will get some minutes," Stotts said.

Stotts added: "Will Barton will get some playing time with Mo averaging his 24 minutes, some of them are at point guard and some of them are alongside Damian. His 24 minutes will be kind of spread out among two or three players."

Barton scored 13 points off the bench in Game 2 in just under 12 minutes.

"Will comes in ready," Stotts said. "He loves to be on the court and I think that showed when he made his first two baskets in probably a minute of being on the court."

Despite losing by 17 in Game 2, Stotts came away feeling better about how his team handled the intensity of the relentless Spurs.

"We got off to a good start in the first quarter," Stotts said. "They made a little run, we came back. From that standpoint we were ready and prepared for the energy that we needed to have in that game to start with."

The start wasn't the problem.

"We need to play 48 minutes," Stotts said. "Whether we need to get off to a good start, if it's tied at half, we need to play the third quarter. Against a team like San Antonio it's not just the start you've got to play a good first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter."

Stotts has been concerned with the team's transition defense. San Antonio's offensive rebounding has presented a different problem than the one that plagued them in the first round.

The Spurs, who were a bottom-ten team in terms of offensive rebound rate, have corralled offensive boards at a rate above the league average in the first two games of the series according to NBA.com.

But the problem isn't just the rebounds, as Stotts is eager to point out. The Spurs aren't rebounding like Houston did in the first round against Portland, it's just that they are converting those chances with machine-like efficiency.

In games 1 and 2, the Spurs scored 42 points on 24 offensive rebounds, nearly two points off of every offensive rebound.

"It goes beyond just the offensive rebounding," Stotts said. "Their efficiency on those second-chance opportunities is kind of off the charts."

The Blazers are well aware of the home court advantage they'll have when they play Game 3, but Stotts knows they can't count on that.

"I've been around long enough to know that you got to go out and being home doesn't guarantee anything," Stotts said.

Without their sixth man and an opponent playing as well as they have all season, the Blazers need any advantage they can get.