Thomas Robinson dunked on a pinpoint pass from Tony Parker, and Will Barton made a 3-pointer after the ball bounced high off the rim twice and then hit the backboard.
Down 3-0, the Portland Trail Blazers will take ‘em any way they can get ‘em.
Robinson’s dunk capped a 9-0 third-quarter run that broke open Game 4 Monday, and Barton’s 3-pointer in the final minute put the cherry on top of Portland’s 103-92 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Even if the Trail Blazers, still trailing 3-1, did nothing but force the series back to San Antonio for a Game 5 at 9:30 ET Wednesday, they at least gave their fans one more reason to cheer.
Most teams down 3-0 get swept, and the Trail Blazers appeared particularly meek. They trailed by 26, 19 and 20 at halftime in Games 1-3, and their second-half performances while down big hardly showed much reason for hope.
But not only did the Trail Blazers lead by two at halftime Monday, they rallied in the third quarter to increase their lead. Midway through the period, Nicolas Batum (14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists) converted a four-point play and then made a 3-pointer on the next possession. On the following possession, Parker tried to save a ball from going out of bounds and threw it right under the basket to Robinson, who dunked.
Gregg Popovich encouraged the ensuing standing ovation by not calling timeout, keeping the party going. His priority clearly shifted to Game 5 as he rested his starters late, and maybe the lesson of playing through a run will help going forward, too.
But Sunday night – probably for the last time this postseason – was all Portland.
Damian Lillard’s scoring continues to rise in the series – 17, 19, 21 and now 25 points – and LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points on 16 shots) also had a solid game. The real sparks, though, were Barton (17 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Robinson (nine points and five rebounds) off the bench.
With Mo Williams out injured, the NBA’s lowest-scoring bench was missing its top scorer. Yet, Barton and Robinson alone matched the scoring of San Antonio’s top two scorers – Parker (14) and Tim Duncan/Boris Diaw (12 points each).
The Spurs went cold from beyond the arc, shooting just 3-for-18. Danny Green (1-for-7 on 3-pointers) was particularly bad.
Green was also the only San Antonio starter to close the game, and he scored seven of his nine points in the final few minutes of garbage time. Popovich is clearly still pushing buttons.
What they activate might not be seen until Game 5, when the Spurs can close this series once and for all.