No spark coming from Blazers bench

Portland reserves no match for Spurs in this playoff series

By Micah Rice, Columbian sports editor

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PORTLAND — When comparing the Portland and San Antonio reserves, it’s less about benches than woodsheds — the Blazers get taken behind one whenever the starters are resting.

In San Antonio, the Spurs bench outscored the Blazers reserves 100-37 over two games.

Game 3 was no different. San Antonio’s bench outscored Portland’s 40-6, and that includes four garbage-time points by C.J. McCollum.

It has been a major difference-maker in this series. It is also a glaring need Portland must address after having the NBA’s lowest-scoring bench for the second consecutive season.

The playoffs have a way of enhancing strengths and exacerbating weaknesses. San Antonio’s bench led the league in scoring this season at 44.5 points per game. Portland’s 23.9 bench points per game was more than a point below the second-worst team.

Mo Williams’ absence due to a groin injury left Portland’s bench further depleted for Saturday. Facing a must-win game, Blazers coach Terry Stotts was asked whether he would consider keeping his starters in the game longer.

“You’ve got to rest guys,” Stotts said. “The best players historically play 40-plus minutes in the playoffs. But I don’t think I can play my starters any more than I do.”

Stotts threw just about every available player into Saturday’s game, but no combination stuck.

Will Barton, the bench’s lone bright spot in games 1 and 2, was scoreless in nearly 11 minutes of action. Thomas Robinson had no points or rebounds in nearly nine minutes. Earl Watson was ineffective in five minutes trying to fill in at point guard.

Stotts even turned to rarely-used Victor Claver for a four-minute stretch in the second half.

To be fair, Portland’s starters were mostly on the court when San Antonio turned an 8-point lead to 19-point advantage with a blitz early in the second quarter.

But when Portland’s starters aren’t firing on all cylinders, the bench hasn’t been there to provide a spark.