Nicolas Batum had a simple question for his Portland teammates: "Why not us?"
No other team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. But the Trail Blazers took the first step Monday night by beating the San Antonio Spurs 103-92 to stave off elimination and narrow the Western Conference semifinal series to 3-1.
"Why not us? No, it’s never been done before," Batum said. "We know it’s going to be tough. It won’t be easy, especially against this team.’
The French forward had 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists and pestered fellow countryman Tony Parker all night. Damian Lillard had 25 points to lead the Blazers, who won their first second-round playoff game since a victory over Utah in the 2000 conference semifinals.
"We had nothing to lose tonight. We had no pressure. It was do or die," Batum said. "So we just go out there and play."
Portland held Parker to 14 points after he had scored 29 points or more in three of his past four playoff games. Coach Gregg Popovich sat Parker and Tim Duncan after Portland built a 20-point lead in the final quarter.
The Spurs are looking to advance to the conference finals for the third straight season. Game 5 is Wednesday night in San Antonio.
"The energy was weird tonight," Parker said. "You have to give a lot of credit to Portland. They played great. They came out of the gates, and I thought Batum was great tonight. He gave them a big boost."
The Blazers were the last team to take a series to seven games after dropping the first three. Portland rebounded in the first round against Dallas in 2003, but ultimately lost the deciding game in the first-round series.
The Blazers have been hurt by the loss of backup point guard Mo Williams to a groin injury for the past two games. Williams provided both energy and points off the bench all season in relief of Lillard.
Portland got just six points off the bench in Game 3, but Will Barton provided a spark with 17 points on Monday night.
Barton became the first Blazer with 17 points and six rebounds off the bench in a playoff game since Brian Grant in 2000 against Utah.
"Any time you get a boost off the bench it’s always good for a momentum swing," San Antonio’s Danny Green said. "When he comes in and gets the crowd into it, they pretty much get it going, and it helped them a lot. "
Coach Terry Stotts promised that the Blazers would play with pride in Game 4 and they did from the start.
Lillard’s pull up jumper gave Portland a 14-8 lead. He extended it to 20-14 with a layup. But the Spurs answered with a 9-2 run and took a 24-23 lead on Patty Mills’ 3-pointer.
Portland, which had only led twice in the previous three games, quickly reclaimed the lead and held on until Tiago Splitter tied it at 46 with a free throw. The Blazers had a 50-48 lead at the half.
"I though with the way Nico (Batum) played, the game came a lot easier," Lillard said. "He was attacking, making plays. He was pushing the ball."
Lillard opened the second half with a 3-pointer. Batum hit a 3 and added a free throw to push the lead to 69-61.
Batum added another 3 before Thomas Robinson’s dunk and Lillard’s 3 made it 77-63 to cap a 12-2 Portland run.
Lillard’s layup put Portland ahead 90-72 in the fourth quarter. He added another to make it 94-74.
"If they lost today it was a sweep, but they’ve got pride and they played good," Manu Ginobili said. "They played the game more desperately than we did. We didn’t bring the same emotions the first three games. The bottom line is they played better than us in every aspect of the game.
Parker scored 29 points in San Antonio’s 118-103 Game 3 victory on Saturday night. The Spurs had routed the Blazers 116-92 in the series opener after their grueling seven-game series against the Mavericks, then built a 20-point lead and won Game 2, 114-97.
NOTES: Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll watched the game sitting next to Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who owns both the Super Bowl-winning Seahawks and the Blazers. . . . It was Batum’s first double-double in the playoffs. . . . It was Portland’s first playoff victory against the Spurs since May 1, 1993, in the first round.