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Spurs' whole game has Blazers in a big hole

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews grabs a towel after Portland's loss to San Antonio in Game 3 on Saturday.Looking like his cat just died after the Trail Blazers fell to the San Antonio Spurs 118-103, Portland guard Wesley Matthews acknowledged a trend.

“It’s the same story,” he said.

For the third game in a row, the Blazers on Saturday watched the Spurs run circles around them in the first half and take a 20-point halftime lead.

“We kept digging ourselves a hole,” Matthews said.

Though the Blazers have repeatedly made second- half comebacks, they haven't been nearly enough to do more than raise Spurs coach Greg Popovich’s blood pressure. The Blazers have won all three second halves, but they have lost each game of the NBA Western Conference semifinals by 15-plus points.

“You dig a hole and then fight back and give yourself a chance, and they have an answer,” Portland guard Damian Lillard said.

Forward Nicolas Batum said Saturday at Moda Center that he believes the Blazers didn’t come out with the sense of urgency needed to hang with such a locked-in opponent.

“We’re down 20 at home in Game 3. We have to show who we are. We can’t go out there, having fun like we did in the first half,” Batum said.

The Spurs' future Hall of Fame point guard, Tony Parker, had his fingerprints all over San Antonio’s impressive first half in Game 3, scoring 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting before intermission.

Unlike in Game 2, where Matthews bottled up Parker for most of the night, Parker did collateral damage to the Blazers' pick-and-roll defense, knocking down 5 of 7 in-rhythm midrange jumpers in the first half. In Game 1, Parker made 5 of 8 midrange jumpers in the first half; in Game 2, he was 8 for 19.

Lillard said the Blazers wanted Parker to shoot from midrange because that is statistically the lowest percentage shot in basketball.

“The same shots Tony was missing the other night, he was making tonight. They run a lot of movement for him, and he jumped off to a hot start,” Lillard said.

Lillard said conceding two-point jumpers to ball handlers in pick-and-rolls is nothing new for Portland.

“We’ve been living with it all season, so why change it?” he said.

Offensively, Lillard seldom broke away from the Spurs' pesky pack and finished with 21 points on 7-of-21 shooting.

“I pull up for a jumper, there are a lot of guys there. I drive to the rim and there are a lot of guys there,” he said.

Lillard said playing against the Spurs has exposed him to a true “championship caliber team.”

“We’re just seeing them put on a clinic, how to execute, how to guard every option of the offense and be consistent at it. I don’t think we’ve been consistent enough,” Lillard said.

Matthews said he thinks it isn’t any one thing the Spurs have done but is their salad bar’s worth of options that befuddles the Blazers.

Matthews on the Spurs' variety: “Marco (Belinelli) comes in the game and they run a floppy action for him, they run a hammer action for Patty (Mills), they run a hanger screen for (Manu) Ginobili and they run a hanger screen for Parker.

“They’ve got so many weapons.”

In order to stop this treacherous three-game slide, Matthews said Portland should erase all memory of the last five days.

“Forget Game 1, forget Game 2, forget tonight, we gotta get Monday,” he said.

Batum is determined to not give the Spurs the satisfaction of sweeping the Blazers at Moda Center.

“Game 4, we have to play a 48-minute game and beat them. You can’t get swept on your home court,” he said.

Matthews said the Blazers believe they can win Game 4 and give Blazers fans at least one last hurrah.

“We’re a prideful bunch and we’ve been through a lot together," he said. "We owe it to ourselves and our fans to not go out like this.”

Though the big-four major American sports have had five successful comebacks from 3-0 (four in the NHL, one in the MLB and zero in the NBA) neither Lillard nor Batum said anyone should assume the series is over.

“Nothing is impossible," Lillard said.

Added Batum: “If we can make history, it can be great, you never know what can happen.”