The San Antonio Spurs brushed aside the Portland Trailblazers on Wednesday, May 14 in a dominant 104-82 home win in game five of the Western Conference second round series. With the win, the Spurs now advance to their third straight Western Conference finals.
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green led the Spurs on a night where All-Star Tony Parker went down with an injury. Green and Leonard had 22 points apiece; with Leonard adding seven rebounds and five steals.
“Kawhi is a young kid,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich after the game on the young Leonard. “He wants to please; he’s a hard worker. He’ll have some games like last game where he’ll be a little tentative for no reason. I think he falls back and defers to the older guys. But whenever he plays freely and takes what comes, then we get a game out of him like this. He’s doing a fine job.”
The Spurs stifled the Blazer offense, forcing them to shoot 26.3% from the three-point line with their shooters going 5-for-19. San Antonio also forced 18 turnovers and had 13 steals, leading by as many as 28 points before the Blazers would close the gap.
“We kind of lost our way last game defensively,” said Coach Pop on the team’s elevated defensive play. “We picked it up higher on the court tonight and had a better aggressive sort of mindset I think; it worked out.”
After the Spurs’ Parker left the game with an injury in the second quarter — which turned out to be a tight hamstring — the Spurs’ Leonard took over the game, driving into the lane, making the opposing Portland team look befuddled.
“Tonight I didn’t want to settle for jump shots,” said Leonard after the game. “I wanted to go into the paint and try to draw some fouls. With Tony not playing I knew I had to be aggressive and take the shots that I saw.”
Leonard’s play drew praise from basketball critics around the NBA, with Barkley and Shaq notably calling the player “Sugar K” Leonard.
“I heard about it (the nickname), a few people told me,” said the shy unassuming Leonard after the game. “Shaq or Barkley started calling me ‘Sugar K’ Leonard. That’s their job to come up with that and sell it to the fans, so it’s alright with me.”
The Spurs will look to play whomever comes out of the other second round series — the Clippers or the Thunder, with preference a non-factor.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” said Leonard. “I just want to play the best team, so it can prepare us for the finals. The finals are not easy; so whoever is the best team we’ll play.”
With game six between the Clippers and Thunder scheduled for May, 15 at 10:30 ET, the Spurs will get some much needed rest before game one of the Western Conference Finals is scheduled.