PORTLAND — Turns out a snake in their locker room was the least of the Trail Blazers’ problems Thursday night.
Portland limped out of San Antonio down 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals with the Spurs. And while their home digs may be snake-free, the Blazers still have to figure out how to stop San Antonio when the teams meet again tonight at the Moda Center.
Terry Stotts summed it up during a timeout in Game 2 when he told his Portland team: “We don’t have a chance if we don’t rebound and we don’t defend.”
Sixteen teams have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a playoff series, most recently the Memphis Grizzlies against the Los Angeles Clippers last season.
The only time Portland has rebounded after a two-loss series start was in the 1977 finals against Philadelphia — which remains the Blazers’ lone NBA championship.
The Spurs have a 3-2 advantage over Portland in the playoffs, sweeping the last meeting in the 1999 conference finals. The teams split the 2013-14 regular-season series 2-2.
San Antonio has dominated this series so far. On Thursday night, the Spurs built a 20-point lead and won 114-97. Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points, and Tony Parker had 16 points and 10 assists, leading a total of seven Spurs who scored in double figures.
The Blazers’ night got off to a strange start when reserve forward Thomas Robinson spied a snake in the locker room at AT&T Center.
Because the snake hissed, the team at first thought it was a rattlesnake, but it later turned out it was not venomous. Needless to say, the snake sighting set the tone for the night and the Blazers played timidly throughout the loss.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who averaged 29.8 points in Portland’s first-round series against the Houston Rockets, scored 16 points, up against unrelenting defense by Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.
“We know that we haven’t played our best basketball, so now we have to,” Aldridge said. “Going home, every guy has to play better, starting with me, and I think every guy will.”
Nicolas Batum led the Blazers with 21 points and Damian Lillard had 19 in the loss.
The Blazers were hurt when guard Mo Williams was pulled from the game because of a groin injury. Williams has consistently brought spark and leadership off the bench the whole season, and he has capably filled in while Lillard rests.
Williams played just nine minutes in Game 2, and the Spurs’ backups outscored Portland’s 50-19.
Stotts told reporters on Friday that he anticipates Williams will miss Game 3, so Earl Watson and Will Barton will help spell Lillard.
The Spurs routed the Blazers 116-92 in the series opener after winning a hard-fought, seven-game series against the Dallas Mavericks.
“We did our part and won both games at home of this series, but the series starts when you win one on the road and we know it is one of the toughest arenas to play in,” Parker said, referring to the Moda Center. “They play really well at home and they have a great crowd, so it is going to be about how we handle these next two games. We need to play with the same energy, take care of the ball, especially on the road, and play the same defense.”
Portland advanced to the second round for the first time since 2000 by defeating the Rockets in six games, clinching the series with Lillard’s amazing 3-pointer at the buzzer at home for a 99-98 victory in the deciding game.
“I think we have a bunch of competitors. They want to win. They know we can play better,” Stotts said. “The fact that we kept coming back in the second half — I am not worried about that part. Certainly frustrating to lose and to get blown out in Game 1 and not quite have enough in Game 2. I know we will be ready in Game 3.”