After three games in which the San Antonio Spurs were dominant in dismantling the Portland Trail Blazers, few people gave the Blazers a chance to avoid a sweep on Monday night in the Moda Center. However, from the opening tip, things were different in this particular game, and after using a third-quarter onslaught to build a big lead, Portland was able to force a Game 5 on the strength of a 103-92 victory.
The Blazers began Game 4 with a 14-8 run to begin the game, and somewhat hilariously, that 6-point advantage marked Portland’s largest lead of the series. While there were little in the way of fireworks in the first half, the home team maintained a small advantage throughout, and they used a 60% shooting clip in the first quarter to springboard a solid, 50-point performance before halftime.
The third quarter was the momentum shifter for Portland, though, and forward Nicolas Batum was the catalyst. Batum scored seven consecutive points (including a four-point play) to push the Portland advantage to 11 points at 72-61, and when the Blazers kept up that momentum, it resulted in a 16-5 overall run (in just over three minutes of clock time) to snatch a 15-point lead. When the dust settled, the Blazers held a 17-point lead after three quarters, and not even the Spurs could mount the type of comeback to severely threaten that edge before Gregg Popovich yanked his starters in the fourth quarter.
On the whole, it was a very balanced and efficient performance from Portland. The aforementioned Batum was probably the star of the night with 14 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists, but the Blazers also got sizable production from their leading duo of LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points) and Damian Lillard (25 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists). They didn’t “need” to shoot the lights out in order to grab a win, which is encouraging, and the energy level of the home crowd also seemed to propel them to run-stopping buckets virtually on command.
Even with the win (and a lackluster performance from San Antonio that included just 3-for-18 from 3-point land), there is little reason to think that the Blazers can make this a long series. However, for one night, Portland showed the resiliency that made them a tough match-up for every team in the NBA this season, and it was a lot of fun.