Game Preview: Portland TrailBlazers at San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs will look to extend their winning streak to three games with a win tonight against the Portland TrailBlazers.
The Spurs are coming off a hard-fought victory over the Atlanta Hawks Monday night, due in large part to the return of Kawhi Leonard. Up until late last night, the Spurs were tied with the Golden State Warriors, sitting atop the Western Conference.
Unfortunately, the Warriors rallied late to beat the Philadelphia 76ers (Yes, you read that right), to retake a 0.5 game lead over the Spurs.
The Warriors (53-14) take the one seed back with a win over the Sixers. #DubNation #MadeInPHILA pic.twitter.com/ZuzOsbgKUH
— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 15, 2017
Nevertheless, the Spurs enter this game with a record of 52-14. They are 7-1 in the month of March, and have won 11 of their last 12 games overall. Basically, the Spurs have lost just one game in the past month.
However, not all the news in San Antonio has been positive as of late. LaMarcus Aldridge was diagnosed with minor heart arrhythmia, and has missed the last two games.
More importantly, his immediate future is in danger.
Jeff McDonald, beat writer for the San Antonio Express News, said Aldridge underwent a new round of testing on Monday, and would be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Head coach Gregg Popovich had this to say about Aldridge:
“We’re just going to wait until he comes back (from the specialist),” Popovich said.
Although the Spurs said he would be re-evaluated on Tuesday, there is still no word on Aldridge’s status for tonight’s game, or his future in general.
Spurs are now 30-5 against the Hawks in the 21st century, the best win percentage by any team against any opponent since January 1, 2000.
— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 14, 2017
On the other hand, the Blazers enter this game with a record of 29-37, sitting 2.5 games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Blazers started March on a four game winning streak, but come into this game losers in two of their last three, including last night’s flop against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Blazers will play their second game of a back-to-back against a relatively healthy Spurs squad in the AT&T Center. The odds aren’t favorable, to say the least.
The Spurs and the Blazers have battled twice the season, the first coming in Portland, and the second coming in San Antonio. The Spurs won both games.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who had 16 points in 37 minutes, along with five rebounds and 10 assists. CJ McCollum also had 16 points on 5-of-16 shooting, along with six rebounds and three assists.
The Spurs were by Leonard, who scored 33 points on 9-of-15 shooting, three rebounds, and two assists. Aldridge, in his return to Portland, had 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting, along with 14 rebounds and six assists. With Tony Parker out for rest, Patty Mills poured in 23 points of his own.
Round two took place in San Antonio, a game that did not include Blazers superstar Lillard. McCollum held it down for the Blazers, scoring 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting. He didn’t receive much help though, as Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe had 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Spurs were also without their superstar, Leonard. In his absence, Parker and Danny Green had 18 points a piece, and Jonathan Simmons scored 19 points of his own.
Spurs are now 52-14, equaling the third-best record through 66 games in San Antonio franchise history.
— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 14, 2017
Overall, the Blazers are just overmatched by the Spurs and their depth. However, if we were to look at two stats that stand out, it would be rebounding and shooting percentages.
In game one, the Spurs out-rebounded the Blazers 45 to 33. The Spurs shot 50% from the field and 60% from beyond the arc, in comparison to the Blazers’ 44.3% and 40%.
In game two, the Spurs out-rebounded the Blazers 48-25. The Spurs shot an even 50% from both the field and beyond the arc, compared to the Blazers’ 45.5% and 30%.
In fairness to the Blazers, the first two matchups did not include Josef Nurkic, who was traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Blazers. In his 11 games with the Blazers, Nurkic is averaging 13.9 points on 50% shooting, 9.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in 29 minutes per game.
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The Spurs will likely be without their prominent big-man, Aldridge. Parker and Dejounte Murray also missed Monday’s game against the Hawks, and the Spurs have not released their status for tonight’s game, either.
The Blazers will be without the services of Evan Turner, Ed Davis, and Festus Ezeli.
Given the fact that the Blazers just finished playing last night in New Orleans, their chances of winning this game decrease.
The Blazers are also one of the weakest defensive teams in the NBA. They are allowing 110.3 points per game this season, 26th in the NBA. If you aren’t a disciplined team on the defensive end, the Spurs ball movement will pick you apart.
The Spurs are -10.5 favorites tonight against the Blazers, which I believe to be just a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, the Spurs have a clear advantage in this game, even without their second and third best player (assuming Aldridge and Parker miss tonight’s game).
The return of Leonard has made everyone’s life a little bit easier, in turn, leading to more productive role players when he is in the lineup. These were the stat totals from the Spurs game against the Hawks on Monday.
The definition of balance illustrated in one simple photo. pic.twitter.com/hAmslzFesI
— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) March 14, 2017
Efficient production from five of your players, without Aldridge and Parker. When other teams lose their second and third best player, you can expect a drop in production. The Spurs, however, aren’t most other teams.
Popovich has been notoriously known to use a 10-man rotation, preparing for the moment that one his best players gets injured, so other players can step up.
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The Spurs will come out tonight, play another balanced game, and look forward to two days rest until Saturday’s matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Leonard goes over 30+ again. Pau Gasol, David Lee, Mills, and Ginobli all score over 10.
Spurs win, 108-100.