The NBA wasn’t doing the San Antonio Spurs any favors by scheduling two nationally televised games on back-to-back nights.
Pitting the 18-5 Spurs against the 9-12 Blazers, on the surface, doesn’t seem like a bad matchup. Yet the Blazers have won 69 percent of their home games — a 28-13 home record in a typical 82-game season — dating back to the 2007-08 season. Winning at the Rose Garden Arena isn’t easy.
Gregg Popovich knows this, confirmed by his decision to rest Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in this very situation last season — the second game of a back-to-back, on the road, following a game in Utah. The Spurs lost by 40 points as a result.
San Antonio may be a little more fortunate this time around. Wesley Matthews, averaging a career-high 16.1 points per game in 20 games, is doubtful with a hip injury he suffered in Monday’s 92-74 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Matthews held the second-highest consecutive games streak at 250.
Nicolas Batum strained his back and is a game-time decision for tonight’s game. Batum has grown as a creator this season, posting career-highs in minutes, points, rebounds, assists and steals.
Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard hasn’t missed any time this season but he, too, is listed on the official injury report with a sore right ankle. Blazers coach Terry Stotts said Lillard is probable. With the second-highest usage rate, behind All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, and the highest assist rate on the team, Lillard is already one of the Blazers’ most important players.
The Spurs are 3-1 on the second leg of a back-to-back with a road win over the Blazers. The NBA schedule makers haven’t been especially kind to the Spurs — with a hefty $250,000 fine to boot — but perhaps tonight will be a break in their favor.