By Raul Dominguez Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points, Tony Parker had 16 points and 10 assists, and the San Antonio Spurs rolled to a 114-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night for a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Manu Ginobili added 16 points, Marco Belinelli scored 13, and Tiago Splitter had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the Spurs’ second convincing victory to open the best-of-seven series.
Nicolas Batum scored 21 points for Portland. Damian Lillard had 19 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points and 10 rebounds, but Portland again struggled to score against San Antonio’s suffocating defense.
The Trail Blazers host Game 3 on Saturday night.
Portland found a snake in its locker room before the game and seemed rattled in the first half before finding its footing in the fourth quarter.
Lillard’s 18-foot jumper pulled the Blazers within 92-80 with 9:17 remaining and his driving layup a minute and half later cut the margin to 94-84. Batum, who was 1 for 5 on 3-pointers in Game 1, hit his third of the game to cut the lead to 99-91 with 5:37 remaining.
The Trail Blazers had a chance to close within seven inside 5 minutes, but Leonard blocked Wes Matthews’ layup from behind to maintain the Spurs’ advantage at 102-93.
Parker followed with a jumper in the lane on Lillard, and Leonard and Ginobili hit back-to-back 3s to put San Antonio up 110-93 and put the game out of reach.
The Blazers kept pace with the Spurs early by pushing the ball to create a better start than in Game 1. Batum’s 3 gave Portland its first lead of series at 7-4 with 9:47 remaining in the first quarter.
The lead lasted for 16 seconds as Leonard’s 3 tied the game.
San Antonio soon turned the strategy against Portland, using the quicker pace to force turnovers and find open shooters.
Boris Diaw scored six straight points to ignite a 23-8 run that gave San Antonio a 54-36 lead with 7 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Spurs had 17 fast-break points in the first half compared to two by the Trail Blazers.
Matthews was clearly frustrated, taking his mouthpiece out and looking upward in frustration before glaring at his teammates.
Matthews responded by scoring 10 straight points in the third quarter while San Antonio went scoreless for 4 minutes, pulling Portland within 81-69 with 2 minutes remaining in the third.
After losing 116-92 in the opener, Portland was sparked by greater activity by Robin Lopez, who had six rebounds and a blocked shot in the opening six minutes. He struggled once Diaw entered the game.