Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals was an old-fashioned lesson in experience over talent. The veteran San Antonio Spurs displayed all aspects of the game in their easy victory over the upstart Portland Trail Blazers. But there was a glaring difference in the win that may be the deciding factor in the rest of the series.
The top bench in the NBA made its first collective appearance in the playoffs by outscoring the Blazers’ bench 50-18 on the night. Three Spurs reserves were able to break double-digits and provide much-needed firepower that prevented any thoughts of a comeback by Portland.
The most promising display of offense was the 19 points from Marco Belinelli, who has been great all season but absent in the playoffs. If he can get into rhythm from the outside, he will reinforce the levels of attack that San Antonio has at their fingertips.
Besides the Blazers’ Mo Williams, Portland does not have much of a threat coming off their bench and cannot come close to matching the talent and experience of the Spurs’ backup support. The only chance the Blazers have at winning this series is nullifying the bench efforts with defense, which is going to be a mighty task that doesn’t exactly have Portland written all over it.
San Antonio can use this series to gain confidence in their bench play as they head into the Western Conference Finals. The effectiveness of the bench has given the Spurs’ starters ample time to recover during the game and has relieved pressure that has allowed them to work effectively.
The Spurs will run away with this series as long as the bench can uphold their championship level of play.