Everything is bigger in Texas, including Wes Matthews’ testicles. Inside of 4 minutes remaining, the Trail Blazers led the Spurs of San Antonio by just one point, at 92-91. Then, just as the moment became a cauldron of manic energy and ascribed importance boiling into Popovich-devised spells of victory as well as crystal meth for us soon-to-be-broken fans, Wes climbed aboard the giant eagle that lives in his pectoral muscles where it feasts on steel and giant igneous rocks and perceived slights, and together, Wes and his eagle knocked down a three-pointer from the wing. Marco Belinelli quickly answered with a three-pointer of his own (related: this game was awesome), but after a bucket from Nicolas Batum and a missed three-pointer from Belinelli, Matthews hit another three and rode off with his eagle to go solve crime mysteries on one of Jupiter’s moons and make delicious meat pies together. Eagle stuff. Wes Matthews stuff.
Meanwhile back in San Antonio, the Blazers closed out a 109-100 win over the team with the best record in the Western Conference, the fourth straight win by the Blazers over last year’s NBA Finals runner-up. But do not allow such a win or such a streak to create feelings reminiscent of dismissal towards the Spurs. Their stars remain powerful, their role players remain specialized tradesmen, and Gregg Popovich remains a witch with whom reckoning should not happen. By the way, that last part is not a joke. Pop is an enchanter and a conjuror and I’m pretty sure does some kind of necromancy (ex: Bonner, Matthew). Allow me to explain in further detail.
Almost midway through the third quarter and the Blazers leading 65-55, Popovich yelled enough angry stuff at official Mark Ayotte during a timeout to get himself ejected. First, Pop appeared to present his profane counterargument to Ayotte for not calling offensive fouls on LaMarcus Aldridge during a couple of physical backdowns against Boris Diaw (who might have been flopping because French people get a lot of stuff like free health care and delicious wines and cheeses but the benefit of doubt in situations of toughness is not one of those things). After Ayotte served Pop with the first tech, the Yung Wine Spectator took his verbal abuse to another level, telling Ayotte that his breath smelled like poop, then proceeding to list the burial sites and causes of death of all of Ayotte’s childhood pets, while grinning maniacally. It was terrifying, and Ayotte could do nothing but deliver another technical foul for the ejection, an ejection that Popovich almost seemed to be asking for. Hmmmmmmmm.
As Popovich sat quietly in the locker room, wearing a confident smirk and opining to no one in particular about the effect of dead soldiers left from centuries of war on the terroir of certain areas of Bretagne, the newly afire Spurs began their expedition back into the game. Or I should say, possibly(/likely) aided by Popovich witchcraft, Manu Ginobli began his expedition back into the game.
Emanuel David Ginobli scored 18 straight points over the last 6 minutes of the third quarter, giving the Spurs a 78-77 to start the fourth quarter. He hit everything from pull-up threes to his signature driving layups to an impossibly awkward wrong-footed lefty bank shot, the kind that only Ginobli makes – the kind that looks like some kind of Picasso cubist painting in which all the fundamentals have been deconstructed and then reconstructed in a way that shouldn’t work at all, but it somehow works perfectly, and its beautiful.
With Ginobli going full Picasso, Boris Diaw doing his best to impress his cat, Boris Meow, Popovich using aforementioned witchcraft to turn Patty Mills into a clone of Tony Parker (fooling Mike Barrett more than once), and the usual suspects doing their usual stuff, Portland needed every bit of Wes Matthews and his eagle, as well as typically stellar efforts from LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points, 13 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (21 points, 8 assists), and one of those real Batumy lines from Nicolas Batum (9 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) to earn a victory.
The Spurs have taken criticism this season for their inability to defeat the elite teams of the NBA, despite dominating everyone else, but criticizing their performance in this game would be ignorant and misguided. The Spurs played brilliantly. It was a wonderful match of basketball at the highest level, a possible Western Conference Finals preview, a heavyweight fight, Godzilla against Honey I Blew Up Bruce Lee, Cocoa Pebbles against Fruity Pebbles, Superman against equally super man, but sometimes witchcraft just loses to the dude with the pectoral eagle.