The San Antonio Spurs look like a No. 1 seed again. After failing to separate themselves through six games against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, they've had two consecutive dominant victories. They thoroughly outclassed the poor Portland Trail Blazers from buzzer to buzzer in Tuesday's second-round series opener, winning 116-92 and reminding the league why they earned the NBA's best regular-season record.
Like in their 119-96 drubbing of Dallas on Sunday, Tony Parker led the charge. Parker dropped 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting in that Game 7, and he managed 33 and nine assists in this Game 1. It was just a couple of years ago that Portland All-Star Damian Lillard was at Weber State, studying film of Parker running the pick and roll, and this was the first playoff game in which he looked like he had lots to learn. By halftime, Parker had 23 points and six assists, while Lillard had four points, no assists and his team trailed 65-39.
Lillard picked it up in the second half, finishing with 17 points, but it was far too late for him and his Portland team. Regardless of who was on the floor for San Antonio, the Blazers could not get the stops they needed. It was typical, beautiful Spurs basketball -- six players finished in double figures, including three reserves. Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Aron Baynes scored a combined 39 points on 15-of-21 shooting.
"That's as well as I've seen San Antonio play," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said at the podium after the game.
Every Game 1 blowout brings a flurry of overreaction. Portland looked like an elite team for six games against the Houston Rockets, and it's unreasonable to expect that this group will have another game where it goes three quarters without a 3-pointer. If San Antonio plays like this, though, it's fair to wonder if this might be a shorter series than anyone expected.
The Spurs clamped down defensively, making life difficult for the Blazers' stars and turning their role players into non-factors. San Antonio made this tough task look easy, and it made you wonder how seriously Portland can be taken as a title contender. It's not that the Blazers aren't a terrific offensive team; it's that they might not be able to solve a team like the Spurs. Perhaps no one in the West can.
Parity made the playoffs spectacular in the first round, and no one outside of San Antonio wants this series to be one-sided. On the surface, Portland should be able to cause some of the same problems Dallas did -- it has a dynamic lead guard, an impossible-to-stop power forward and several shooters spreading the floor. Those who tuned in hoping for seven games might have had a scary thought, however: Perhaps the Spurs are much better than they showed to start postseason. Perhaps they just needed those first six games to find themselves.