After nearly falling on their face in the opening round of the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs found their footing Tuesday night and ran the Portland Trail Blazers off the court.
Tony Parker had 33 points and nine assists and San Antonio never trailed in a resounding 116-92 victory over Portland, bullying the younger Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
"He’s been doing that for a lot of years," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It’s nothing different. He’s the guy that’s our attack guy. (He) creates for everybody and starts the offense. He’s also played very good defense this year and most people don’t really see that."
Parker, who had 32 points in Game 7 against Dallas, scored 13 points in the first quarter on a series of drives and capped it with a corner 3 as San Antonio built a 10-point lead 8 minutes into the game.
The Spurs never led by less than 20 in the second half.
"They did what championship teams do," Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. "They came out and set the tone early. Most of the guys on (Portland’s) team haven’t even been in the second round and they’ve won championships. They’ve been here. I think they definitely came out and they let us know how it’s going to be."
Kawhi Leonard had 16 points and Tim Duncan added 12 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio.
More importantly for the Spurs, their bench contributed mightily after being virtually nonexistent in the series against Dallas.
Marco Belinelli had 19 points and the Australian connection of Aron Baynes and Patty Mills had 10 points apiece.
"We came out swinging, caught them with a few early punches and they were on their back heel at that point," Baynes said. "It was good for us that we came out like that but now we have to maintain it."
The Spurs had their most complete game of the postseason, playing with the flair and fluidity that resulted in the league’s best regular-season record.
"I think Game 7 (against Dallas) gave us a lot of confidence for our team," Parker said. "I think team wise we played our best game in Game 7. I think tonight was a little bit of the same thing. Defensively, it was one of our best games because Portland has a lot of shooters, a lot of scorers."
Portland, meanwhile, didn’t come close to resembling the confident and sharp-shooting group that upset Houston in the opening round.
Aldridge had 32 points and 14 rebounds and Damian Lillard had 17 points for Portland, but the All-Star duo combined for just 17 points in the first half as San Antonio built a 26-point lead.
"They knew where we were going to do (plays)," Aldridge said. "They tried to deny guys on certain sets. They tried to force guys to their weak hand. They did what good teams do. I think guys are going to learn from it."
Lillard was pushed out of the paint by 6-foot-7 Leonard early in the game and was nearly knocked off his feet defensively by a series of blistering picks.
It wasn’t any easier physically for Aldridge, who opened the game shooting 1 for 5 against Tiago Splitter and Baynes.
"The first half was not what we were looking for," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "San Antonio really came out with a lot of energy and aggressiveness. They were the more aggressive team at both ends of the floor for the whole half."
Splitter had an early steal on a pass to Aldridge and nearly had a second when he poked a dribble away as the 6-11 forward attempted to push his way into the block. Splitter hit the court in a failed attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds, but it mattered little as the tone had been set for a long night for Aldridge and the Trail Blazers.
Duncan left the game with four minutes remaining in the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls, but the Spurs increased their lead in his absence thanks to big contributions from reserves.
Baynes had an immediate impact after playing only the final six minutes of San Antonio’s Game 7 victory over Dallas. He scored four points quickly and continued the physical defense against Aldridge that Splitter established.
"He was awesome," Duncan said. "He gave us some great minutes. He came in there with his big body, made some plays for us, made some shots, cleaned up the glass. He did everything he was asked to do. It was great."
Belinelli finished 3 for 5 from 3-point range, leading the Spurs’ bench to leap to their feet in loud celebration after the Italian guard’s struggles in the opening series. After going just 4 for 7 on 3-pointers against Dallas, Belinelli opened the game by hitting his first three attempts from long range.
"Ball movement was good," Parker said. "Dallas made a conscious effort to stay on our shooters. Tonight was different. I made a conscious effort to find Marco. I talked to Pop. We wanted Marco to be back in the series, be back in the playoffs. I was trying to call his number and look for him a lot. Tonight I think half my assists were to Marco."
The Spurs scored the opening eight points from close range as Portland missed its first six attempts from a variety of spots on the court.
NOTES: San Antonio and Portland had not met in the playoffs since the Western Conference finals in 1999, when Sean Elliott made a dramatic 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining to win Game 2 and spark a series victory. Dubbed the "Memorial Day Miracle," Elliott made the game-winning shot after catching a pass, turning with his heels hovering above the out-of-bounds line and firing a high-arcing shot over a hard-charging Rasheed Wallace. The Spurs would go on to win their first NBA title that season. . . . Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was in attendance as was NBA super fan Jimmy Goldstein, who was dressed in his trademark leather outfit and hat. . . . Ginobili was issued a technical foul by Tony Brothers after slamming the ball to the court following a traveling violation with 1:23 remaining in the first quarter. . . . Entering the series opener, Duncan had played as many postseason games (218) as the entire Portland roster.