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Spurs fall to Trail Blazers despite Kyle Anderson's breakout game

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On a night where San Antonio rested four of their best players, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to outscore the Spurs every quarter in a game that saw the NBA coming-out-party of Kyle Anderson and good performances from the Spurs bench.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

On the second night of a back-to-back (SEGABABA), the Spurs often rest one or more players, but tonight rest and injuries combined kept four of the Spurs best players from playing in a 108-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Tim Duncan (rest), Tony Parker (hamstring), Manu Ginobili (sore back), and Tiago Splitter (calf) all were held out of the game, and the Silver-and-Black started a lineup of Cory Joseph, Boris Diaw, Aron Baynes, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green.

The Spurs seemed to almost keep pace with Portland for the entire game, but they just were a few steps slower, and the Trail Blazers increased their lead every quarter, with the final margin of victory being the biggest lead of the game. Spurs fans got to see great play from some of the bench players and Kyle Anderson had the best game of his young career, scoring 15 points on 6-7 shooting in just 15 minutes, and he showed why us Spurs fans should be excited about him joining the team. He's going to be a key contributor to the team, and maybe those contributions can start this year. Kawhi Leonard played a great game and filled the stat sheet with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists.

The first quarter was a sloppy affair, with both teams shooting poorly and Cory Joseph uncharacteristically throwing the ball away 3 times in the first 6 minutes. Danny Green hit two open threes and kept the Spurs close, but the Trailblazers got great production from unexpected sources, Wes Matthews, Will Barton, and Allen Crabbe make some plays on offense and kept the Blazers ahead. Damien Lillard seemed to be coasting and ended up helping the Spurs get open shots by going under screens and getting caught in traffic more than once. Despite how poorly the Spurs played, they were tied with just a few seconds left in the quarter but let Will Barton dribble the ball the length of the court to an open buzzer beater three point shot, and the Blazers ended the quarter up 23-20. It was a bad end to the quarter, and it's exactly the sort of things that Gregg Popovich coaches the team not to do, but this was a lineup that hasn't played together much at all this year, and it showed on defense.

The second quarter started better for the Silver and Black. There was even a sighting of the once thought to be mythical creature, a jump shot from Jeff Ayres. The Spurs outrebounded the Blazers for the quarter and shot a little better, but they were just able to keep pace and once again gave up an open look to Portland at the end of the quarter, but luckily for the Spurs Black missed the layup and the score was 48-43, and the Spurs were still in the game, trailing by only 5 points.

The third quarter belonged to LaMarcus Aldridge. Most of the time, he was matched up against Boris Diaw, and it was an interesting battle to watch. Aldridge is one of the few big men in the game who is almost as graceful as Bobo, and he has an excellent midrange shot. LaMarcus is one of the few big men that can match Boris move for move, and since he's a few inches taller, it's advantage Aldridge, and we saw that in the third, as LaMarcus hit shot after shot over Diaw's defense. But Bobo played well on the offensive end and made nice and-one at the six-minute mark, but he missed the free throw. Boris scored ten points in the quarter, but Aldridge scored 14. That was kind of the theme of the night, while the Spurs played well, the Blazers played just a little better when they had to.

Kyle Anderson entered the game with 3:43 left in the third and immediately had an impact. While he has been tentative all year, tonight he played with confidence and was aggressive. This is the real value of a game like this, it gives meaningful minutes to a guy like Kyle Anderson where he has to step up. He can't defer to the team's stars because they aren't playing, and he gets an opportunity to show the team if he can carry the load. My expectations for Anderson weren't high this year, they don't call him 'Slo-Mo' for nothing, but tonight he showed that he can play with NBA players and have an impact. The third quarter ended with the Blazers up eight, 76-68. Despite all of the good play from the Spurs young-uns, the Blazers played steadily and increased their margin, and even though it wasn't huge, the game never felt in doubt.

The fourth quarter saw the Spurs improve even more on offense, but every time they made a little run to close the margin, the Blazers answered with a run of their own. Whenever the Spurs played good enough defense to make the Blazers miss a shot, they gave up an offensive rebound and another shot. Damien Lillard used his speed and athleticism to grab rebounds in traffic from much bigger players. This was a situation where the Spurs could have used Patty Mills, who gets an insane number of rebounds for someone his size. The Spurs just couldn't close the margin and with about 2:30 left they tried intentionally fouling Thomas Robinson to get a few more possessions. Of course, Robinson, who had been shooting 40% from the free throw line made three out of four, which pretty much invalidated the hack-a-Thomas strategy.

This wasn't the most fun game to watch as a Spurs fan, but it was a valuable game for the Spurs players. We got to see the coming out party of Kyle Anderson, who played his best game as a Spur. Cory Joseph got tested against top competition, and after a rough start, he did pretty well, and he picked up his play in the second half. Danny Green had a good game, and Aron Baynes showed he belongs in the NBA. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs play a little different game than most of the league, they don't always play all out to win every regular season game, sometimes they will sacrifice wins to develop players and rest their stars. The most important thing for the Spurs is getting ready for the playoffs, and you get the feeling that they Spurs will be ready this spring.

The most worrisome aspect of the game is that Kawhi Leonard appeared to have reinjured his hand and left for the locker room with 44 seconds left. As Spurs fans, we can only hope that it's a minor injury and won't keep him out of the lineup long.

For the Trailblazers point of view, visit Blazer's Edge.

The Spurs record is now 17-8 and their next game is against the Memphis Grizzlies in San Antonio at 7:30 pm.  I'll see you in the game thread.

Random observations:

  • Kyle Anderson knows how to post up players shorter than him, and most players at his position are.
  • Damien Lillard loafs on defense a lot, but when he tries, he's not bad.
  • Aron Baynes after getting a foul called on him loudly yelling -- "He pushed him into me" to the referee, who acknowledged him and tossed the ball to Lillard for the free throw.
  • These Spurs are going to have to do a better job contesting rebounds if they want to win games against good teams. They ended up getting the ball taken from them more than once when they had good position but didn't go hard enough.
  • Austin Daye is not all that graceful for an NBA player.  He seems downright awkward at times.
  • Bonner didn't get any minutes tonight until late in the game, which ruined my Twitter prediction of the game
  • Up until today, the Spurs have won every game I've recapped. I'm sorry Pounding the Rock, I let you down tonight.

Tweets 'n Stuff:

[Note: this is my pre-game Twitter prediction mentioned above.]