SAN ANTONIO (AP) – After a grueling seven-game series with the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs earned some rest by making quick work of the Portland Trail Blazers.
And it couldn’t come at a better time.
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 over Portland in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
“We really needed this win for multiple reasons,” said Manu Ginobili, who handled much of the ball-handling duties in Parker’s absence. “First, because we didn’t want to get on the plane tomorrow. It’s tough to play every other day so far against a younger team after a four-hour flight. Then, every time you have an opportunity to close a series, especially at home, you want to take it. Then we saw Tony go down, so now we have a little break to get him back.”
After playing with various injuries throughout last postseason, 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.
Parker will undergo an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury.
The good news is Parker and the Spurs have at least five days off to recuperate in another extended postseason run.
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 awaits 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.”
After nearly being ousted by the Mavericks, the Spurs’ confidence was definitely lifted by a near sweep of the Blazers.
The ball movement, energetic defense and potent bench scoring that led San Antonio to the league’s best record was virtually absent against Dallas. It returned to overwhelm Portland, which had upset the Houston Rockets in the opening round.
Patty Mills scored 18 points and Tim Duncan had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs, who had four blowout victories in the five-game series.
“After a tough series with Dallas, they came out and played extremely well this series,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “It is a compliment to all the years that they have been here and the program that they have developed. They certainly outplayed us in this series.”
Parker was key to San Antonio winning the first three games by a 19-point average.
He averaged 23 points and 6.5 assists through the first four games against Portland after scoring 32 points in the Spurs’ decisive Game 7 victory over Dallas.
But losing Parker proved tougher for Portland to overcome on Wednesday.
“It (changed the game) because they are different players and they bring different dynamics to the game,” Aldridge said. “We just had to change things up. The bigs not so far back and trying to be up a little more on Patty. He played great in the sires and made some big shots for them. You never want to see a man go down, but Patty came in and did great.”
Aldridge had 21 points for Portland, while Damian Lillard added 17 points and 10 assists.
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,” San Antonio forward Boris Diaw said. “We have a very solid team, a very deep bench. All kinds of players that can step up and tonight Kawhi did. Patty Mills came in and filled in for Tony and did a great job. He scored, which he usually does. He is very aggressive; at the same time, he had to be a leader and he had to be under control like Tony does.”
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 offense, move the ball, just try to be a little more aggressive.”
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