By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
PORTLAND, Ore. — Dig deeper.
That’s the answer for the Trail Blazers, even though they’re already standing in an 2-0 hole.
LaMarcus Aldridge says they’ve got to play better. Damian Lillard says they have to play harder.
“Everybody has to play better, starting with me,” Aldridge said.
“It’s going to be tough, but we have confidence in what we can do on our home floor,” said Lillard.
But as the Western Conference semifinal series resumes tonight with Game 3, the Blazers will have to go deeper into their suspect bench with reserve guard Mo Williams sidelined by a groin injury.
“We anticipate that he will not play,” said coach Terry Stotts.
Portland is a young team, with no starter older than 28, but even young teams can get worn down. The Blazers compensate for a water-thin collection of reserves by playing their starters more, with three of them averaging at least 41 minutes in the playoffs and another logging 39 per night.
Williams suffered the injury in the Game 6 close-out win over Houston in the first round and labored to shoot just 3-for-11 with four turnovers in Game 1 against the Spurs. In Game 2, Williams played just under nine minutes before the injury flared up again and he was forced to the bench.
For a team that is being overwhelmed by San Antonio’s depth — the Spurs regularly use 10 players — and with Lillard already up to 43.3 minutes per game in the playoffs, the loss of Williams is significant.
“I would assume that Earl [Watson] will get some minutes and Will Barton will get some playing time,” Stotts said. “With Mo averaging his 24 minutes, some of them are at point guard and some of them are alongside Damian. His 24 minutes will kind of be spread out among at least two or three other players.
Barton was on the court for less than 90 seconds total in the entire first-round series win over the Rockets, but has played 20 minutes in two games against the Spurs. In Game 2 on Thursday night, he shot 5-for-5 for 13 points in 12 minutes and during the second quarter was the often the only Blazer who was on the attack offensively.
“Will comes in ready,” Stotts said. “He loves to be on the court and I think that showed when he made his first two shots in maybe a minute of being on the court.”