EGGERS: Crazy things could indeed happen for Blazers
SAN ANTONIO Call me crazy -- a lot of people do -- but there's a window of opportunity for the Trail Blazers to claim the final four games of their Western Conference semifinal series with San Antonio and move on to the next round.
I know. No team in the history of the NBA has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
So the odds are in Portland's favor.
As Blazers guard Wesley Matthews says, "It has to happen sometime."
On the surface, you wouldn't think it would happen against the Spurs, the gold standard by which their NBA brethren have been judged over the past 15 years.
San Antonio looked bullet-proof in Game 7 of its first-round series with Dallas and again in the first three games against Portland, games in which the Spurs led by an average of 22 points at halftime. The Spurs looked like favorites to win their fifth NBA championship since 1999. The Blazers looked like the Milwaukee Bucks.
But things were beginning to change a little even before Portland's 103-92 victory Monday night at the Moda Center.
For one thing, San Antonio's Tim Duncan began to lose confidence in his outside shot after the opener, in which he made 5 of 9 field-goal attempts. Since then, Duncan is 18 for 41 from the field, and 7 for 22 on shots from 10 feet and beyond.
Most of Duncan's scores in the last three games have come on tips, layups and jump hooks. He has been reluctant to shoot from the perimeter. When he does muster up the courage to let fly, more often than not, his clothesline set shot bangs hard off the front iron. For a guy who has made a living on his 15-foot bank shot, Duncan is looking all of his 38 years old.
From the start of the series, Manu Ginobili -- who had played well in the Dallas series -- has played like a guy who turns 37 this summer. The Spurs' legendary sixth man is a dreadful 10 for 38 (.263) from the field, including 2 for 12 from 3-point range. San Antonio's starting shooting guard, Danny Green, is only marginally better at 9 for 28 (.321).
The Spurs were 3 for 18 from 3-point range Monday night. Tony Parker and Patty Mills were the only Spurs who looked comfortable taking a shot from the outside in the game. The Blazers were able to pack the middle and rule the battle in points in the paint (62-44) and second-chance points (15-8).
Portland's Damian Lillard finally began looking like himself in the second half Monday night, getting to the paint and scoring 15 of his game-high 25 points after intermission. Lillard even hit a couple of 3's, making him 3 for 19 from long distance in the series.
It would make sense that a guy who made 218 treys and shot .394 from beyond the arc during the regular season would begin to heat up from out there. Maybe that will happen in Game 5 Wednesday night at the AT&T Center.
LaMarcus Aldridge has averaged 22.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in the series, and he made 8 of 16 shots from the field in Game 4. But due in part to San Antonio's excellent defensive plan against him, Portland's All-Star power forward is shooting only .402 (35 for 87) in the series.
Aldridge was able to drive right and get to the rim a few times Monday night, especially when defended by 6-8 Boris Diaw. Aldridge seems due for a 30-point bust-out or two.
Nicolas Batum has been outstanding offensively in the last three games, averaging 18.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists while making 22 of 37 shots from the field (.595). He also took on the defensive assignment against Parker late in Game 3, and helped hold the Spurs' best player to 14 points and one assist Monday night. Coach Terry Stotts is probably kicking himself that he didn't turn to the 6-9 Batum earlier in the series.
Robin Lopez had his best game of the series in Game 4, with nine points, 12 rebounds, good defense on Duncan and Tiago Splitter and plenty of hustle plays. Lopez has 19 offensive rebounds in the four games; he often seems to be able to reach over every other player on the court in pursuit of the roundball.
Then there is Matthews, who has averaged 13.5 points and not shot well from the field -- 18 for 46 (.387), including 8 for 24 on 3-point attempts. It would be surprising if he doesn't come up with a 20-point performance one of these games.
Best buds Will Barton and Thomas Robinson provided life off the bench in Game 4, giving hope that they'll continue to provide productivity in the area where the Blazers need it most.
All these things add up to the possibility of the Blazers going into AT&T Center and stealing one Wednesday night. If that were to happen, who wouldn't think Portland could go home and hold serve in Game 6?
A win there by the Blazers would force a deciding Game 7, where as everyone knows, anything can happen.
Maybe this is all whistling in the dark.
Maybe Parker gets rolling again Wednesday night. Maybe Duncan regains confidence in his shot and plays like he's 28 again. Maybe Ginobili finds his stroke and becomes the "Argentine Assassin." Maybe Gregg Popovich presses all the right buttons with the Spurs, and the Blazers feel the pressure of a close-out game on the road and wilt like a rose in 100-degree heat.
Call me a homer -- a lot of people do -- but I won't be shocked if the Blazers pull off the upset Wednesday night and bring the series back to Portland. If that happens, the Blazers gain a little more confidence while more doubts creep into the minds of the Spurs.
It ain't over 'til it's over, and it ain't over yet.