Minus Mo, Trail Blazer Bench Outpaced By Spurs Subs In Game Three

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By KEVIN HUDSON

The Portland Trail Blazers played to a deficit in terms of bench scoring through the first two games of their second-round playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs.

In a 116-92 San Antonio victory in game one, the Spurs bench earned a 50-18 advantage over their Trailblazers counterparts. In a 114-97 game two win, San Antonio reserves accounted for a 50-19 edge.

So with Mo Williams, the Trail Blazers sixth man and leading scorer among reserves, listed inactive for game three, finding a spark off the bench was going to be critical to Portland’s hope of a home victory to swing momentum in the series.

“Mo’s big for us. He creates offense off the bench,” said LaMarcus Aldridge. “He gets guys easy shots and he’s a big part of this team and this offense so not having him other guys had to do a little bit more.”

But with Williams inactive the Spurs would dominate the bench battle once again in their 118-103 game three win, outscoring the Trail Blazers second unit 40-6.

Dorell Wright opened second-quarter scoring with a layup off the feed from Damian Lillard, but that would be the last points scored by a Trail Blazers reserve until CJ McCollum’s freethrow with 1:34 left in the game and Portland trailing 116-100.

It was McCollum’s first career playoff point and he finished with four to lead Portland reserves as Portland coach Terry Stotts emptied the bench in the final minutes of the lopsided loss.

For Stotts, bench production on offense starts on the defensive end of the floor and is not something that can be schemed or adjusted for.

“I don’t think we can force it. When the plays are there they’ve got to be ready to make shots, make plays,” he said. “I don’t necessarily run a lot of plays for those guys but I think when we play in flow and make plays for each other - being ready to knock down shots, being ready to drive the ball to the basket and get out on the break - our tempo has been good and that favors some of our reserves but we’re giving up a lot of points. Our defense needs to be better.”

San Antonio coach Greg Popovich credits his reserves with everything the team has accomplished this year, their contributions not only helping to win games but helping keep the Spurs starters fresh for the full season and into their post-season run.

“The bench has been important to us all year long,” Popovich said. “We achieved home court advantage because our bench played so well all year long and allowed us to keep guys to 30 minutes or less during the entire season. They’ve continued to be big for us in this series.”

Portland has seen an increase in productivity from Will Barton in this series, with 13 points in game one and nine in game two, but Barton was never able to get going in game three without Williams on the court.

“We brought in Will Barton and I thought he was great tonight at making plays for us,” Aldridge said. “But we definitely miss Mo because he scores and he gets guys involved.”