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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers

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Wednesday's loss to the Grizzlies was one for the ages. Now, the Spurs look to avoid a three-game skid by taking on the Blazers at home.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
December 19, 2014, 7:00 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: ESPN - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

When your team isn't all that young, and close games require expending more energy than you'd like in mid-December, close losses can begin to take their toll. It's kind of like losing in War when you pull a queen and your opponent draws a king. But a triple-overtime loss -- that's like drawing three "wars" in a row, only to lose in the end. It can be good fun while it lasts, but not so much once you flip over what was lost.

Of course, this brilliant parallel can only go so far. Not every team in the NBA is playing with the same quality deck and, more importantly, no war is won in December.

Whether or not you've recovered from Wednesday night's thriller against Memphis, the regular season shuffle continues. Tonight, it's a rematch against the Portland Trail Blazers, who beat the Spurs at their home less than a week ago. In that matchup, Pop rested Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter and, despite a decent game from Kawhi and a breakout performance from rookie Kyle Anderson, San Antonio lost by 13.

The Blazers, already not the deepest team in the league, will be without a key piece when they come to the AT&T Center toinght. Starting center Robin Lopez will be MIA after breaking his hand on Boris Diaw's head last weekend.

Lopez's absence will make a big difference. Defensively, he holds his own against opposing bigs like Timmy, but his impact on the offensive end can't be understated either. He's one of the best players on the offensive glass, and, in an age where the offensive rebound has lost its advanced-stats appeal, Lopez remains a junkyard dog. The fact that Duncan won't have to work so hard each time Lillard or Matthews let fly on a three will mean he'll have much fresher legs through the game.

Of course, the Blazers attack will still remain built around the pillars of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, who propelled them to victory last time. Cory Joseph stepped in well, as he has all season, in Tony Parker's place, but he's still learning. While Tony is able to consistently apply pressure to defenses, Joseph is still just an opportunist, making the most of what he's given.

Tony (hamstring) and Kawhi (hand) sat out the Grizzlies game, and their status for tonight's game is still up in the air. The rotation has been anything but consistent to start the year, with San Antonio rolling out 15 different starting lineups through the first 26 games.

It makes predicting tonight's matchup slightly difficult but, with the strong possibility of the team hitting a four-game losing streak after tomorrow's game in Dallas, I think Pop has reason enough to play Tim, Manu (who both played over 40 minutes on Wednesday) and Kawhi and chase the W.

Matchup to watch: Timmy vs. the Kaman/Freeland/Leonard hydra. With Lopez out, the Blazers are without someone who has the chops to disrupt things down low. Duncan could have a big game against a weaker Portland front line, which could tilt things in San Antonio's favor.

vs.

Portland Trail Blazers (19-6)

San Antonio Spurs (17-9)

December 19, 2014

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas

7:00 p.m. CST

TV: ESPN

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Damian Lillard

PG

Cory Joseph

Wesley Matthews

SG

Danny Green

Nicolas Batum

SF

Kawhi Leonard

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Matt Bonner

Chris Kaman

C

Tim Duncan


Game prediction: Spurs by four.

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