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article imageNBA: Portland sends Spurs reeling at the buzzer

By Lynn Herrmann     Mar 26, 2011 in Sports
Portland - The Portland Trail Blazers hosted the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night and the drama-filled game included a team coming back from a fourth quarter double-digit deficit to defeat the reeling Spurs at the buzzer, 98-96.
In an unbelievable finish that saw the Spurs with a four-point lead and possession of the ball with 31 seconds to play in the game, the basketball gods smiled down upon Portland and a boisterous Rose Garden crowd, granting the Blazers six points in half a minute, including an inbounds lob to the rim where Nicolas Batum laid it in at the buzzer. The age-old adage of protecting the basket at times must seem so insignificant.
For the Spurs, questionable coaching did not help the situation.
The most glaring of these calls was bringing Steve Novak off the bench to inbound the ball with .9 second to play in the game. With the Rose Garden crowd at a fever pitch, he sailed the ball high over the head of Manu Ginobili, so high it went from its out-of-bounds origin and landed out-of-bounds again, untouched. By anyone. No time off the clock. Portland ball. Unbelievable. Game.
Two costly turnovers by the Spurs, one each from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, in the final 30 seconds of the game, and an inability to protect a four point lead with possession of the ball, sent the Spurs to their second consecutive heart-breaking defeat, both against playoff-bound Western Conference opponents.
Fast approaching must-win situations, the Spurs now get to face Memphis, Portland (again) and Boston in their next three games, all while Tim Duncan is still nursing a sprained ankle.
Earlier in the week, Spurs beat writer Tim Griffin labeled Tiago Splitter a “disappointment,” yet one has to wonder what he thinks about some of the play calling by the Spurs coaching staff on Friday night. Maybe we’ll get to enjoy a more in-depth discussion about it in his next column.
For the record, Splitter scored 11 points against Portland on 5-of-5 shooting from the field, grabbed 7 rebounds and played very solid defense on the Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge, yet inexplicably saw just 23 minutes of action.
Coming into the game with a 57-14 record, still tops in the NBA, barely, the Spur had just performed a similar act against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, a performance that saw them lead throughout much of the game, only to wilt in the fourth quarter in a disappointing 115-112 loss in the Mile High City.
On Friday, the Spurs blew a 22-7 second half run that gave them a 10-point lead with less than six minutes to play. During that run there were signs of good defense, yet when it mattered most, Portland wanted it more.
In the first quarter, San Antonio went on a 10-0 run to take a 28-17 lead before Portland went on a 7-0 run to close the lead to 28-24 at the end of one. The Spurs Tony Parker scored 11 points in the first quarter, followed by Splitter with 6 points and 4 rebounds.
Portland’s Gerald Wallace opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer to pull the Blazers within one, 28-27, and extend the run to 10-0. The score would remain a see-saw operation until the Spurs’ Matt Bonner hit a trey just before the half, giving the Spurs a 49-47 lead at intermission.
The Blazers opened the third quarter on a 15-7 run, and had a 62-56 lead, their largest of the game.
A Richard Jefferson hook shot, a Ginobili step-back 17-footer and a Jefferson trey gave the Spurs a 63-62 lead and seconds later Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a substitution, sending Jefferson to the bench.
Portland then went on a 9-2 run to retake the lead, 71-65. Going into the fourth, the Blazers were up 73-70.
A floater by Gary Neal gave the Spurs an 88-78 lead and had them on a 22-5 run going back to the third quarter but just as quickly as the team’s defense had finally arrived, it departed, allowing Portland to go on an 8-0 run and close the gap to 88-86 with under four minutes to play.
Then the roof fell in for the Spurs. With a 6-point lead at the 1:20 mark, thanks to a big 3-pointer by Ginobili, San Antonio’s much maligned defense allowed Andre Miller to score an uncontested layup. Then the turnovers began. First Parker’s, then Ginobii’s.
With the game tied at 96, the Spurs had a chance to win. After a timeout by each team, Popovich put Steve Novak in the game to inbound the ball, who then threw it high over the head of Ginobili, giving the ball back to the Blazers with no time off the clock.
After a Portland timeout, the Blazers then inbounded a lob to Batum at the rim who laid it in at the buzzer for the 98-96 win.
Assistant coach Don Newman told Spurs Radio after the game: “That one hurt. You’re up four and you’ve got the ball. What a way to lose.”
Showing his disappointment, he added: “It takes a little wind out of the sails.” Indeed.
The Blazers have now held the Spurs under 100 points in eleven straight games, and the Spurs have now lost six straight at the Rose Garden.
Next up for the struggling Spurs, a Sunday evening contest with the tough Memphis Grizzlies.
More about San antonio spurs, Portland trail blazers, NBA, western conference, nicolas batum
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