Skip to comments.Trail Blazers long walk out of the season interrupted by an unlikely greeter
Posted on 05/15/2014 7:32:13 AM PDT by laotzu
SAN ANTONIO The game ended. The Trail Blazers' season ended. There was no escaping. There was no hoping. There was no "0.9" left. In the end, all that remained of the season was a merciful walk back to the locker room.
Game 5's score: San Antonio 104, Portland 82. And if we're being real, this series was so lopsided at times it felt like a five-game sweep.
Still, here were the Blazers leaving the season, and along the black carpet back to their locker room a bespectacled, graying R.C. Buford waited for them. The Spurs' general manager and the NBA's executive of the year had positioned himself, mid-walk, off to the left side. He wanted to shake hands with each of the Portland players, and coach Terry Stotts' staff, too.
"Nice season, Terry," Buford called out, as Stotts approached. They shook hands, and hugged. LaMarcus Aldridge was next. Then, the others. And the Spurs GM could have spoken for all of us with his remark --- nice season, Blazers.
"It was a hell of a season. What we did, through the adversity that we had, through the doubt that was surrounding us to start the year off, we accomplished way more than anybody thought we would. This team --- we were hungry. We predicted a special year. That was big. But this team isn't a content team. We're not proud of our departure, but we're proud of how we got here."
The Spurs were too good. Four-time champion, good. And they weren't just locked in, deep, well coached and talented, they're also playing a mission provided by the way their 2013 season, a near-miss against the Heat, ended with heartbreak in the NBA Finals.
Basically, Portland went for a playoff walk, skipped down an alley and found a ticked off rhino coming the other way. Not a pretty result.
"It was on the job training as far as wanting to be a champion," Matthews continued. "For lack of a better term, we got thrown into the fire. You say, 'Congratulations, you just beat Houston in a series you probably shouldn't have won, now here's the defending conference champions waiting for you.'
Stotts and Co. were in over their heads against the Spurs. They played an inspired 12 minutes on Wednesday, ending the first quarter tied 19-19, but after that, Game 5 looked suspiciously like the blowouts in Games 1, 2, and 3. If it were a UFC fight, it would have been stopped at halftime of the first contest. Instead, the Blazers were invited back to the Riverwalk for a season finale that featured seven different San Antonio players scoring in double figures.
Portland got killed by a flash mob.
Aside from a struggling Manu Ginobili, nothing went right. When Tony Parker disappeared in the second quarter, followed to the locker room by a concerned Buford, I half expected he left out of playoff-series boredom. Turns out Parker had a tight left hamstring. Which is only to say, we should just get the Spurs and Heat together right now before someone gets hurt on the way to their imminent and entertaining championship meeting.
The Spurs are a fun bunch. They share the ball. They're unselfish. They're humble and likeable. It's plug-and-play basketball, with journeymen such as Patty Mills subbing in for Parker and lighting it up with 18 points.
Gregg Popovich's machine makes it look so easy that you see Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi watching from the AT&T Center crowd during Game 5 and you think, "Wonder if Pop could just throw that guy in and get 18 points and two assists without a turnover?"
Portland did San Antonio a favor, knocking out Dwight Howard and James Harden. Houston was a tougher matchup for the Spurs. In the process, Lillard, Aldridge and Matthews and Co. got a rude introduction to just how good you need to be to compete against an outfit that doesn't need a mulligan to shoot under par.
This is something to build upon for Stotts and Blazers, Inc. There's lots of work to do for everyone. Matthews is right. Buford could have been in the opposite tunnel, too, high-fiving his own players and rubbing his hands together like Dr. Evil. Instead, he waited to congratulate the Blazers, and Allen, as they absorbed their end. It was a class move to walk to the opposite side of the arena, and graciously, pick the Blazers players up off that black carpet, reminding them how far they've come.
Because they have.
Beyond the energy necessary to post this, who gives a damn?
I do. Thunder Spurs matchup will be epic!
Two classy owners, two classy teams.
Why did you read it if you don’t care? We Texans enjoy reading about our teams, and the Spurs are our very best. May they endure against the Heat, and this time, prevail.
In spite of the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs have been a role model for professionalism. Yes, there are a few kinks - like Tony Parker - but Coach Popovich keeps these guys in line.
The Blazers actually played up to their level. They’re a legitimate playoff team but not good enough to contend for a title. But the Spurs biggest stars are getting old, and the Blazers are younger. If they can keep this crew together and get better play and from their bench, they could be contenders in a few years.
Anybody but Miami.
I agree. As a life-long Blazer fan this series was tough to watch....but I tried to keep it in perspective. The Spurs are simply a machine and they have tons of big game experience. If the Blazers can bolster their bench and learn from this playoff run, their nucleus is good enough to keep them in the finals conversation for years to come.
I didn’t read it. But I’m just being crotchety. Seems too much FR can get one down sometimes. Sorry for the bringdown. Ignore me.
But for a couple of pesky ref calls, the next series might have become the Mavs vs. Clips.
Wouldn't that have made the TV execs happy?
I’m convinced the entire NBA was wanting the Clippers to win to spite Donald Sterling and show how intolerant they are against free speech.
I actually hope the Spurs play Indiana in the Finals. Two small market teams.
Don’t be mad. The longhorns will be relevant again some day.
Is that his happy, sad, passing a gall stone, or just won a billion dollar lottery look?
Last daughter is off to TTU in the fall.
Looks like I will get to know the Southwest flight attendants pretty well over the next 3 years.
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