Facing an 0-2 deficit in the Western Conference semifinals, the Trail Blazers return home to the Moda Center in hopes of securing a Game 3 win over San Antonio. The key for the Trail Blazers is twofold: (1) Portland needs greater scoring production from both LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard; and (2) Portland’s defense needs to find a way to slowdown the Spurs’ offensive attack.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge has been limited by San Antonio center Tiago Splitter’s one-on-one defense. Indeed, Aldridge finished Game 2 with just 16 points on 6-for-23 shooting from the field. Point guard Damian Lillard has also been hampered by San Antonio’s defense as he made just eight of his 20 field goal attempts in Game 2. In order for Portland to be competitive in this series, both Aldridge and Lillard need to bring their “A”-game to tonight’s do-or-die contest against the Spurs.
Portland’s defense also needs to find a way to limit the Spurs’ prolific attack as seven San Antonio players finished Game 2 in double-figures, including three reserves. The only silver lining on at the defensive end of the court has been the inspired play of guard Wesley Matthews, who limited Tony Parker to sixteen points on 8-for-19 shooting from the floor in Game 2.
Offense has never been an issue for Portland as the Trail Blazers are averaging 106.8 points per game this season against teams that would combine to allow 101.4 points per game. Let’s also note that the Trail Blazers are 33-11 at home where they are averaging 108.0 points per game, while also averaging 107.4 points per game in postseason play. Meanwhile, San Antonio is yielding 99.7 points per game in the playoffs, including 100.2 points over the last five games. Overall, Portland is 5.4 points per game better than average offensively, which gives the Trail Blazer a nominal 1.4 points per game advantage over San Antonio’s stop unit.
As indicated earlier herein, the problem facing Portland is a woeful defense that is allowing 112.7 points per game in the playoffs, which is significantly worse than the Trail Blazers’ season average. In fact, Portland is allowing 103.6 points per game this season to teams that would combine to average 102.0 points per game, thereby making the Trail Blazers just 1.6 points per game worse than average defensively. However, San Antonio is averaging 115 points a game in the first two meetings of this series so the Trail Blazers need to start playing disciplined defense in order to have a chance in Game 3.
Returning home should also give Portland some comfort in light of the fact that the Spurs are just 3-10 ATS inside the Rose Garden, which is one of the NBA’s toughest venues. The home team is 20-9 ATS in this series, while the Spurs are 0-4 in their last four road games.
Pro Edge Sports Pick: Portland Trail Blazers (+1.5) (-110)