SAN ANTONIO – The veteran San Antonio Spurs showed Portland a few things about succeeding in the playoffs. The biggest lesson was how not to panic when an All-Star goes down.
Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard each scored 22 points, and San Antonio overcame an injury to Tony Parker to close out the Western Conference semifinals with a 104-82 victory on Wednesday night.
Patty Mills scored 18 points and Tim Duncan had 16 points and eight rebounds for San Antonio, which had four blowout victories in the five-game series.
It’s the third straight conference finals appearance for San Antonio, which lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Miami Heat in last season’s NBA Finals.
San Antonio, which had the NBA’s best record, will await the winner of the series between Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder have a 3-2 lead.
“Whoever’s the best team, I want to play them,” Leonard said. “It’s gonna prepare us for the (NBA) finals.”
LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points for Portland, while Damian Lillard added 17 points and 10 assists.
With Parker forced to exit in the first half with a hamstring injury, Leonard, Mills and Green pressed the action on both ends.
San Antonio finished with 13 steals, including five for Leonard, while forcing 18 turnovers.
“My mindset was just trying to be aggressive on the offensive end,” Leonard said. “Just knowing Tony was out, he’s very aggressive and still try to stick with our system. Play our offence, move the ball, just try to be a little more aggressive.”
The Spurs also had 24 assists on 42 baskets, shooting 47 per cent from the field, and had 43 fast-break points.
“They definitely showed us about moving the ball around,” Aldridge said “They made five or six passes every possession down. It just makes your defence tired and just makes guys make mistakes. They definitely showed use where we are trying to go.”
After playing with various injuries throughout last post-season, the Spurs had been healthy in these playoffs until Wednesday.
After returning to the court with 9:46 remaining in the second quarter following his normal rest, Parker left the game exactly a minute later. He headed back to the locker room followed closely by San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford and team physician, Dr. Paul Saenz.
“Luckily we have a couple of days,” Duncan said. “It worries us, obviously, but he’s been going hard. He’s had a great series thus far, and it just kind of caught up with him. They pulled the plug on him before he hurt himself. He started to feel a little weird and they did the right thing. Hopefully that helps; hopefully there’s nothing there.”
Parker was scoreless in 10 minutes, missing his only two shots as Portland pushed to keep the All-Star point guard out of the paint.
With Parker out, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Trail Blazers’ 40-7.
“Everybody stepped up,” forward Boris Diaw said. “We have a very solid team, a very deep bench.”
The lack of bench production was especially critical considering how Splitter and the Spurs were able to contain Aldridge.
After averaging 29.8 points in Portland’s upset of Houston in the opening round of the playoffs, Aldridge was limited to 21.8 points.
“I don’t know maybe you can tell me,” Aldridge said when asked about the Spurs’ defence. “I had the same looks. I actually got to the rim more in this series than in last series. I just missed easy shots. I have to be better for us to win. I definitely didn’t play well in this series so it was tough for us to win games.”
Even with Parker slowed, the Spurs still had another good start thanks to their hustle on the boards.
Tiago Splitter had two offensive rebounds in the opening 3 minutes. The Spurs, who were averaging 9.3 offensive rebounds in the post-season, had five in the first quarter alone.
Mills provided a huge spark even before Parker’s exit.
The energetic Aussie sprinted for a layup after tipping away C.J. McCollum’s dribble in the backcourt. A possession later, Mills blocked Lillard’s 3-pointer, igniting a fast break that led to Green’s first 3 of the game.
“What Patty (Mills) did today was outstanding,” Ginobili said. “Patty, Danny, and Kawhi, especially, were fantastic. We struggled all series in the third quarters, and they really stepped up. They were aggressive, getting steals, running the transition and ones we got that lead back to 20, it kind of felt like it was over.”
Green had the strongest effort of the post-season, going 4 for 6 on 3s.
San Antonio had four 3s in the second quarter, with Leonard’s second extending its lead to 43-30 with 4:47 remaining in the half.
NOTES: Portland G Mo Williams (groin) missed his third straight game. After scoring six points on 3-for-11 shooting in the series opener, Williams exited Game 2 after nine minutes with a strained groin and has not played since. . Meb Keflezighi, the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years, was in attendance.
© 2014 The Associated Press