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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs @ Portland Trail Blazers

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The Spurs catch a late flight from the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest, to take on the 18-7 Portland Trail Blazers on a SEGABABA.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Portland Trail Blazers

Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
December 15, 2014, 9:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

Portland's remarkable run last season ended in the Western Conference Semifinals, when their young team ran into the Spurs buzzsaw that was only picking up steam. After their Game 5 defeat, the Blazers couldn't even be upset with themselves; all they could do was shrug and prepare for next year to prove that the season wasn't a fluke.

Through their first 24 games, they've done just that, complementing a balanced attack with more depth and better defensive focus. They're currently fifth in the West, just ahead of San Antonio, and coming off a 10-point win Saturday in Indiana.

The Spurs are coming off a win of their own, beating the Nuggets despite Tony Parker sitting out with injury. The win was keyed by the return of Kawhi Leonard, who had missed time and looked out of sorts with a bruised hand. Whi stuffed the stat sheet, with 18 points, 8 boards, 5 steals and 6 blocks, as the Spurs started a very difficult stretch of games on a positive note.

The team has been able to live without Tiago, and even Kawhi's absence can be covered sometimes -- especially with the level of defense Danny Green is playing But Tony Parker's such an important part of the offense that it takes on a very different feel with him gone or operating more as a decoy. His wheel routes along the baseline have defenses clueless, and his penetration and ability to hit the open man perfectly are skills that Cory Joseph -- impressive as he has been this season -- can't duplicate just yet.

Speaking of Green's defense, he's been on another level this season, with effort that's been invaluable given Kawhi Leonard's health to start the year. He's locking down wings night in, night out (holding Kobe to 7 of 22 on a night he could've passed MJ on the all-time scoring list), while being among the best at his position at blocking shots and helping on the boards. He's also one of just three dudes (Aron Baynes and Boris Diaw the other two) who've appeared in all 23 games.

This is a tough stretch for the Spurs, and the Wheel of Pop will spin madly when it comes to who shows up in street clothes each night. Tony might not return tonight, and it's hard to say whether or not we'll see Manu or Tim (who played 32 minutes last night) in street clothes.

A short-handed Spurs team will need to be extremely careful with the ball if they're to be competitive tonight. Turnovers have marred their defeats this season, and Portland isn't the type of team you want to give extra possessions to.

Matchup to watch: Boris and Tiago vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. The two have become a great combo as an answer to bigs like Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki. Tiago will obviously still be on a minute count, but his skill set will be put to good use against LMA, for however long we see him.

vs

Portland Trail Blazers (18-6)

San Antonio Spurs (17-7)

December 15, 2014

Moda Center, Portland, Oregon

9:00 PM CST

TV: FSSW

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Damian Lillard

PG

Cory Joseph

Wesley Matthews

SG

Danny Green

Nicolas Batum

SF

Kawhi Leonard

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Tiago Splitter

Robin Lopez

C

Tim Duncan


Game prediction: Blazers by 7.

For the Trail Blazers' perspective, visit Blazer's Edge.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment: Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com