San Antonio Spurs @ Portland Trail Blazers
Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon
February 21, 2012, 8:00 Spurs Time
TV: Fox Southwest - RADIO: 1200 WOAI
Well some people are breathing sighs of relief that Manu isn't hurt too badly, and other folks are sighing with worry over the fate of Tiago. To be fair, there are some who sigh no matter what Tiago does, so this may have nothing to do with his calf and everything to do with the sparkles. Two weeks without those two may feel like an eternity. This is a tough stretch, no doubt about it. The Spurs are on the road, homesick, short-handed, facing some very good teams. Would I rather our Spurs were 100% healthy? You bet. On the other hand, I think every team in the league has had to deal with the injury issue. And I guarantee I know one group of fans that will not be shedding any tears for the Spurs' injury problems. Of all teams, the Portland Trailblazers don't want to hear it, and I don't blame them. That's a long-suffering set of fans over in Oregon, and my hat's off to them. The Blazers are always a tough and worthy opponent. So let's get it on!
Portland was on the the road last night as well, and got trounced by the Lakers. The Blazers are hovering around .500, and are on the bubble of making the playoffs. But this is not a team to take lightly. Of their sixteen losses, ten have been close, within two possessions, and several of those went to overtime, against some quality opponents like Dallas and Oklahoma City. Last time I watched the Blazers they lost a tough one to Dallas, and though the Mavericks came out on top the Blazers were relentless, answering every big Maverick basket with one of their own until they just ran out of time. Aldridge was scary good that game, hitting some clutch baskets and lighting up the scoreboard with 33 points. This is a well-coached, talented, resilient bunch, and they are especially tough to beat on their home court, where they are a very respectable 12-5. Nate McMillan is once again putting a team on the floor that plays hard on both ends. Portland is in the top ten in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency, as well as in points per game and assists. Of course LaMarcus Aldridge is always a handful for the Spurs, and all the more so with Splitter missing from the lineup. Small forwards Nicolas Batum and Gerald Wallace are both averaging double figures this season, and Kawhi Leonard, Daniel Green and Richard Jefferson will need to play solid defense on those two. Raymond Felton is doing a serviceable job for the Blazers, with 10 points and 6 assists per game, and he always seems to have a good game versus the Spurs. But Tony Parker is playing incredibly, and he will win that battle.
The Blazers have the length and depth that can test a short-handed Spurs front line. Gregg Popovich will not be anxious to give Tim Duncan a lot of minutes, particularly on the second night of a back-to-back. DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner are going to need to play some staunch post defense, and as strange as is feels to be writing this, I think I feel more confident about Bonner meeting that demand. Prove me wrong, DeJuan!
NBA Stats Cube Lineup Comparison Here. Trailblazers perspective can be found over at the always entertaining Blazers Edge.
Game Prediction: These two franchises know each other well, and I expect a tight battle. Do the Spurs have the bodies to compete tonight? Call me an optimist, but the young ones have been finding a way to get it done this season. Portland loses another heartbreaker tonight, and Spurs win by 3.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.