Quick take: Spurs (5-1) vs. Trail Blazers (2-3)
Oct. 31, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Jared Jeffries (1) congratulates guard Damian Lillard (0) after scoring a basket against Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-US PRESSWIRE
The Spurs will win if: The bench take advantage of the Blazers’ reserves. Aside from the starting five, coach Terry Stotts rarely ventures deep into his bench. Rookie center Meyers Leonard receives the most minutes, averaging 20.4 minutes per game.
The rotation goes about 7-8 deep, if that, and it is entirely possible that San Antonio will increase the scoring margin while Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge are temporarily on the sidelines.
The Spurs won’t win if: The Blazers, namely the Lillard-Aldridge combination, generate solid looks from the pick-and-roll and limit turnovers. (Lillard, with 41 percent of his possessions coming from the pick-and-roll, is currently sixth in points per possession as the ball handler.) The home-court advantage — as the Spurs haven’t won at the Rose Garden since Apr. 6, 2008 — is also a bonus.
X-Factor: Though his career has spanned only five games, point guard Damian Lillard has already shown that he is a potential franchise center piece. Portland is a substantially better team when the 22-year-old product of Weber State is on the floor; according to NBA.com/Stats, the Blazers’ offense scores 8.4 points per 100 possessions more with Lillard while also limiting turnovers and shooting at a higher percentage. Being a capable passer, averaging 6.9 assists per 36 minutes, the Spurs will have to find a way to impede Lillard in the pick-and-roll, especially if Aldridge is the roll man.