They say that familiarity breeds contempt. With their last meeting just five days ago, the Spurs and the Blazers are very familiar with each other, but the attitude between the two teams is more one of respect than contempt. It could be due to the fact that two of the Spurs best players are former Blazers, newbie Lamarcus Aldridge who is just finding his way around the Spurs system, and Patty Mills, who has parlayed his high energy defense and deadeye shooting into becoming a mainstay of the Spurs bench contributors.
But tonight's game belonged to Manu Ginobili, who turned in a strong performance for the second half but dominated the last 4 minutes of the game, scoring nine straight points for the good guys to stake them to a 90-80 lead with a minute left. Kawhi Leonard capped off the scoring with a three-point shot with 11 seconds left.
The game started off looking like the Spurs might dominate, as they coasted out to a quick 6-0 lead, but then the shots stopped falling for the Silver and Black and the Blazers ripped off a 10-0 scoring streak behind some slick moves from Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Spurs answered with a 10-0 streak of their own, despite remaining cold from the field. With Chris Kaman replacing Meyers Leonard, who was out with a separated shoulder suffered in the previous game against the Spurs just five days ago, the Blazers were severely lacking in scoring punch.
The Spurs decided that tonight was the right time to roll out the new EBS* offense, which consists of the normal Spurs offense with beautiful ball movement and passing, but with no one on the Spurs being able to hit a shot, even when they're open. Time after time, David West would find his man for a great look at the basket, but the shot would barely rim out, denying West the assist that was rightly his.
* EBS = Everything But Shooting.
Despite the offensive problems, the Spurs did a good job at limiting the Blazers and they first quarter ended at 17-13 in favor of the good guys.
The second quarter was, unfortunately, more of the same. Boris Diaw kept the Spurs ahead of Portland with some graceful moves to the basket, and a missed goaltending call on a fast break basket from Patty Mills kept the score close. Danny Green hit a three-point shot with 8:00 minutes left but he still hasn't shown any evidence of breaking out of his current icy spell. Meanwhile, the Blazers didn't fare much better, with a Tragic Johnson sighting from Mason Plumlee as he brought the ball up the floor and booted it in the direction of the Blazers bench.
The Spurs shot under 30% for the half, and it looked like it might be a tough night for the Spurs, but somehow they ended up with a 36-28 lead at the half.
At halftime, somebody took the lids off the baskets at the AT&T Center and both teams looked sharper on offense to start the third quarter. The Spurs surged to a quick lead, but the Blazers hung tough and Lillard got hot, scoring 16 points in the quarter, and the Blazers outscored the Spurs 32-29 in the quarter, leaving the Spurs holding to a slim 65-60 lead. Al-Farouq Aminu and C.J. McCollum also had a solid third quarter.
Manu started the fourth quarter and led the Spurs out on a quick 7-0 run. LaMarcus Aldridge, unfortunately, seemed to be a little passive against his former team, but that's understandable since he hadn't been seen the ball much since the first quarter. Lillard continued his hot play and the Blazers were able to cut the lead to just three points on a three from Noah Vonleh with 3:48 left.
Then Manu decided he had had enough and took over the game for the Silver and Black. Using his personal time machine, he used funky moves to get open and sink shots. He went on a personal 9-0 run, only interrupted by a layup by Mason Plumlee at the other end. Kawhi Leonard closed out the scoring on a three pointer, validating the firmware update that Chip Engelland installed at halftime on the Spurs small forward.
The Spurs record is now 8-2 for second in the Western Conference, behind the nearly invincible Warriors. For the opponent's perspective on tonight's game, visit the Blazer's Edge. You'll be glad you did.
Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets at the AT&T Center, Wednesday, November 18 at 7:30 PM CT. The Spurs continue their home stand and have a chance to extend their record against a young Nuggets team that isn't nearly as scary at altitudes close to sea level as they are at home.