SAN ANTONIO -- For all the coming-of-age adulation poured on the Portland Trail Blazers' two-man tandem of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge for their first-round success, the San Antonio Spurs made a pretty simple statement to open up the second round Tuesday: Don't forget for a second we still just might have the best player in the series in Tony Parker.
Parker prodded and probed his way to a game-high 33 points and nine assists, setting the tone for the Spurs' 116-92 conference-semifinals-opening win over the Blazers. He single-handedly tore up the momentum the team from Rip City built up in the first round into itty-bitty pieces.
Parker was nearly as productive in the first quarter (13 points on 5-for-9 shooting) as Lillard was for the entire game (17 points on 6-for-15 shooting), helping the Spurs jump out to a 13-point lead after the first frame and never look back.
"He's been doing that for a lot of years," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Parker's hot start. "It's nothing different. He's the guy that is our attack guy and creates for everybody and starts the offense going. He's also played very good defense this year. Most people don't really see that."
Parker drew the defensive assignment on Lillard, and as Portland's pride and joy struggled, so did the rest of its offense.
The Blazers shot just 37.8 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep (4-for-16). Only one of the 11 Trail Blazers players to enter the game, Will Barton, made at least half of his shot attempts. And Barton only did that in the fourth quarter when the Spurs' lead never dipped below 20 points.
After Lillard's heroics against the Houston Rockets, the days leading up to the Spurs series made you wonder if we'd be seeing a changing of the guard -- the 31-year-old Parker's spot near the top of the NBA's point guard pyramid in jeopardy with the 23-year-old Lillard charging hard.
While Parker graciously called Lillard a top-five point guard in the league, he wasn't looking to sidetrack the Spurs' title goal with a solo point to prove.
"I just try to be Pop's favorite point guard," Parker said after Game 1 when asked where he would rank himself.
He had a smile on his face but was wearing a button-down shirt embroidered with countless human skulls -- reminding you that many a promising young point guard have faced off against Parker in the playoffs over the years only to see their season laid to rest.
"I don't think he takes the challenge personally or anything," Boris Diaw said of the Parker-Lillard matchup. "Tony's got one thing on his mind, it's winning games."
Portland will make adjustments. Wesley Matthews guarded Parker primarily in the second half when Parker had five of his six turnovers. Nicolas Batum will also surely get a shot to try to stop him. Parker doesn't just expect the Blazers' defense to cross-match with him as the series drags on, he invites it.
"I'm used to that," Parker said. "Every team I played in the playoffs my whole career, they put a bigger guy on me."