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Old 02-26-09, 05:09 AM
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Beaten by 'a roadrunner' - Behind The Blazers Beat - The Oregonian -
Beaten by 'a roadrunner'
by Jason Quick, The Oregonian

SAN ANTONIO -- If ever there was a chance for the Trail Blazers to end their hex in San Antonio, it was Wednesday night, when the Spurs were without injured stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
As it turned out, all the Spurs needed was Tony Parker.

The speedy guard zigged, zagged and zipped his way through the Blazers defense on his way to 39 points and nine assists, leading the Spurs to a 99-84 win at the AT&T Center. The Blazers have lost 11 in a row in San Antonio, and rarely have they been close, losing those 11games by an average of 15.6 points.

If there's any solace, not many teams have been able to keep pace with the Spurs (39-17), who keep motoring despite an aging roster. A big reason for the Spurs' stranglehold on the Western Conference's second best record has been Parker, who has taken on a more aggressive role since Duncan has been unable to play because of a balky hamstring. On Tuesday against Dallas, Parker had 37 points in a rout against Dallas.

On Wednesday, he was spectacular, if not breath-taking, blending spin moves with darting quickness while also displaying a deadly outside shot.

"He was like a roadrunner," a solemn Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "He was just blowing by us."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was just as flattering.

"He was a super stud," Popovich said.

For all of Parker's heroics, the Blazers were within 84-80 with 5:00 left in the game, but in what McMillan called the play of the game, Parker spun off a double pick and found Matt Bonner, the NBA's top three-point shooter, at the top of the arc. Bonner hit the three, causing McMillan to throw his hands above his head in disgust, and the Blazers never got closer than five the rest of the way.

It was another frustrating road result for the Blazers (35-22), who played well for stretches, but never long enough to put a serious scare into the defensive-minded Spurs. Portland shot 37.6 percent from the field -- their lowest since opening night at the Lakers -- which was caused equally by the Spurs' defense and too many misses on wide open attempts.

What made this one tough to swallow was the Blazers played sharp, tying their season low for turnovers (six) and got a needed shot-in-the-arm from their bench. The only problem was their stalwarts had a decidedly off night.

Steve Blake was 0 for 9 with one assist and called his performance "as bad of a game as I've played all year." Brandon Roy was 5 for 18 from the field, missing several floaters in the lane.

"It's hard to win a game when your two starting guards aren't hitting their shots," Roy said.

They weren't alone. LaMarcus Aldridge went 4 for 9 and Rudy Fernandez 2 for 8.

What kept the Blazers in the game was a stellar performance from the bench. Channing Frye led the Blazers in scoring for the second time in his career, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Travis Outlaw continued his hot shooting, hitting 6 of 9 shots on his way to 13 points. And Sergio Rodriguez, limited to five minutes on Tuesday against Houston, had eight points and seven assists.

"To beat teams like this you almost have to play a perfect game," Aldridge said. "We didn't."

It has become a common theme for the Blazers on the road. As one of nine teams fighting for eight playoff spots in the Western Conference, Portland is now 1-11 on the road against the other eight contenders. Overall, the Blazers are 12-17 on the road, including five consecutive losses, which has reduced their lead over Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot to 2.5 games.

There is little time to regroup, however. After Friday's game in Minnesota, the Spurs come to Portland for a Sunday evening game. That means more of the "roadrunner," who in two games against the Blazers this season has beep-beeped his way to 63 points and 20 assists while making 27 of 46 shots (58.7 percent).

"He's as good as you can get," Blake said. "His quickness, body control, ball control and his touch around the basket is second to none."

Notes: The Blazers haven't won in San Antonio since Nov. 9, 2002, when Bonzi Wells had 19 points and Ruben Patterson 12 rebounds. ... Portland is now 7-4 in the second game of back-to-backs. San Antonio, meanwhile, improved to 8-5 in the second game of back-to-backs. ... Popovich described the Spurs' defense as "outstanding" and "fantastic" against the Blazers. "The last four games we have been the defensive team we've been in the past. If we continue that way on the whole, by the playoffs we'll be a pretty good team." ... Portland has failed to score 100 points in the last 17games in San Antonio.
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