The Spurs are riding a seven-game winning streak heading into tonight's home matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers, and look to improve on their league best record. Portland is coming off of their third straight loss, and looking regain what they once had. It's obvious that as we head into tonight's game, the Spurs and Blazers find each other amidst two different realities.
Pop's squad is coming off of a dominant 104-96 dismantling of the Chicago Bulls in front of their own fans, setting a season first quarter scoring record with 38 points in the matchup. Manu Ginobili lead the team with 22 points, with Tony Parker right behind him with 20.
For San Antonio, the nation is beginning their annual pilgrimage into the Spurs camp. They are arguably the hottest team right now, and un-arguably playing the best basketball. Now that they are atop the NBA, Pop's squad is proving that they can not only beat the elite teams, but can also confidently secure wins against medium-to-lower-tier teams as well (we're looking at you, OKC). Taking care of Portland would just add to the already impressive streak the Spurs have going as they get one game closer to claiming the number one seed in the Western Conference.
The Blazers, on the other hand, are currently playing like the team everyone thought they were going to be at the beginning of the season, which has got to be killing them.
Before the season got underway, many writers and analysts had them finishing not much higher than 6th in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard proved to be a spark plug for his team last year, and LaMarcus Aldridge looked like he could turn into quite the player at the power forward position, but no one knew they would start out as hot as they did. Throughout the first half of this season, each game Portland won became a pseudo-statement to everyone who didn't believe they could be at the top of the West. They wanted us to know that we greatly underestimated them, and that they were coming for us.
But since the beginning of 2014, it's been less about proving to the rest of the Association that they're the best, and more about proving to themselves that they've still got what it takes to be an elite team. They headed into January with a 25-7 record, but have since gone 17-15 and are now slotted to be the 5th seed in the West; just shy of a home-court advantage series in the playoffs.
What isn't helping the Blazers' quest for their former identity is the fact that they're giving up close games down the stretch. Back in November and December you couldn't count Portland out of any contest heading into the fourth, and definitely lead all other teams in League Pass alerts as they clawed and scratched their way back into leads late. But in this month alone, the Trail Blazers have lost by 1 point to the Lakers, 5 points to the Mavericks, 5 points in an OT heartbreaker to Rockets, and by 10 points to Memphis last night. The fire they once had is dwindling, and Portland is left wondering which version of themselves is the real deal, and which is the fluke.
But this idea of Portland taking a dip in the standings shouldn't distract the Spurs from the fact that they are talented. The Blazers are still a very real threat. They're currently 2nd in the NBA in points per game, 1st in total rebounds, 3rd in three pointers made, and 1st in free-throw percentage. Damian Lillard is still scorching defenses, putting up 19.8 ppg and 6.1 ast, while LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging a double-double with 23.7 ppg and 11.2 rebs. And don't forget about Mo Williams, who always seems to up his game when facing San Antonio.
For both teams, this will be a SEGABABA. For the Spurs, this usually means that we will see a slew of players resting, but may not be the case this time around because no player clocked more than 30 minutes in the game against the Bulls last night. The only iffy player is Danny Green, who looked to be sidelined for a majority of the game because of a sore wrist.
As for Portland, they are not ones to mess with starting lineups. Expect to see all of the usual suspects out on the floor on Wednesday night.
Key Bench Players
Mo WilliamsHead Coach
Trail Blazers' perspective may be found at Blazers Edge.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 8.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 6.
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.
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