PORTLAND, Ore. — The intensity and focus that has the Spurs rolling 3-0 over Portland in the Western Conference semifinals can be traced to their Game 3 loss to Dallas in the first round.
Vince Carter hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Mavericks went up 2-1. But San Antonio simply was not going to concede the opening round after last season’s disappointing Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat for the NBA title.
”Down 2-1, Dallas really made it a series. They played great basketball — everybody was playing very well on that team and they made it hard on us,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. ”In Game 7 you have to show up because if you don’t the season’s over. I think we learned from it and so far, we’re playing good.”
Boris Diaw also pointed to the Dallas series, which San Antonio won with a 119-96 victory in the deciding Game 7.
”We had our back against the wall and we had to play good,” he said. ”We’ve been playing the same way since then – so probably a turning point for us.”
On Monday night the Spurs will try to dispatch the Trail Blazers in four games — and hopefully get some rest before the conference finals against the winner of the other semifinal between Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers.
”This is as well as I’ve seen them play all season,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ”By Game 7 against Dallas, they came out of the gate and they haven’t stopped since then.”
No team has ever lost a seven-game NBA playoff series after going up 3-0.
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 first-round series’ deciding 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 series against the Mavericks, then built a 20-point lead and won Game 2, 114-97.
Parker has scored 29 or more points in three of his last four playoff games. He had 20 points in the first half alone in Game 3 against Portland. In the 119-96 Game 7 victory over the Mavericks, he poured in 32.
The Spurs have managed to slow down Portland All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who averaged 29.8 points in the first round against the Houston Rockets.
The Blazers have been hurt by the loss of backup point guard Mo Williams to a groin injury. Williams has provided both energy and points off the bench all season in relief of Damian Lillard.
His absence was noticeable in Saturday night’s loss, with Portland getting just six points from its bench.
”Monday is a new game, and we are confident we are capable of winning,” Lillard said. ”It is also about our pride. We do not want to come out here and get swept. We still believe we can win a game — we have to come out here and play like it.”
Portland advanced to the second round for the first time in 14 years by defeating the Rockets in six games, clinching the series with Lillard’s amazing 3-pointer at the buzzer at home for a 99-98 victory in the deciding game.
The Spurs have a 3-2 series advantage over Portland in the playoffs, sweeping the previous meeting in the 1999 conference finals. The teams split the regular-season series 2-2.
”We’d love to close this thing out,” San Antonio’s Tim Duncan said. ”We’ve had pretty decent control of it throughout and we want to finish it the right way and get some rest.”