Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsJose Calderon and Tony Parker battle for a loose ball in the first round of the playoffs.
After all, the Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t even force the Spurs to fuel up the team plane for a second trip, as San Antonio finished the series in emphatic fashion with Wednesday’s Game 5 rout.
The Spurs, assuming Tony Parker‘s tight left hamstring heals by the time the conference finals begin next week, look every bit like the favorite to win the West for the second consecutive year. For that, they might owe a bit of gratitude to Rick Carlisle and the Mavs, who outwitted the Spurs to stretch the series to seven games, forcing Coach of the Century candidate Gregg Popovich and his veteran core to figure out ways to adjust.
“It was a great test for us,” Parker said earlier in the series against Portland. “I think every time you play a Game 7 and you win, it gives you confidence. The team right now is doing good, but we know it can change real fast, so we just have to stay focused.”
Poor Terry Stotts and Portland, a franchise that advanced to the second round for the first time in 14 years, never stood a chance. The young Blazers preserved their pride by avoiding the brooms with a Game 4 win, but the Spurs rolled by an average of 19.5 points in their four wins.
Perhaps the Mavs will be the equivalent of 2011 Portland to these Spurs. Those Blazers gave the Mavs their best test in the West playoff bracket. The Mavs made Portland’s 23-point comeback in Game 4 a rallying point, losing a total of only three games in the next three series before guzzling champagne in Miami Beach after claiming the franchise’s first title.
This is the drive for five for San Antonio, which came so close to earning its fifth crown last season. It seems the Spurs got a jump start from their old friends up Interstate 35.