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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers

LaMarcus Aldridge returns to the Pacific Northwest to face his old team, the reeling Portland Trail Blazers.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Blazers have no trouble putting up points, averaging almost 110 a game. That’ll happen when you’ve got two of the better scoring guards in the league and play at a pace and style that makes the best use of their talents.

The problem for Portland’s at the other end, where they’re dead last in defensive rating, having given up over 125 points in three of their last four games. Their starting backcourt provides little resistance on the perimeter, notably in the pick and roll, and the player they hoped would be their defensive anchor is yet to play a minute for them.

Now losers of four in a row, the Blazers are in a funk—-making them an ideal team to face on a road back-to-back, following San Antonio’s disappointing loss versus the Clips.

The Spurs will be even more short-handed than we thought going into this one, but they’ll still have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor. Leonard is coming off another strong performance last night, and Aldridge is undefeated against his former team, going for more than 20 in two of last year’s three victories.

San Antonio Spurs (23-6) at Portland Trail Blazers (13-18)

Dec. 23, 2016 | 9:00 CST

Watch: FSSW; Listen: 1200 AM WOAI

Spurs injuries: Manu Ginobili (rest), Pau Gasol (rest), Tony Parker (rest)

Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (knee), Evan Turner (ankle)

More old guys out for the Spurs

Manu Ginobili stayed at home for San Antonio’s two-game West Coast trip. Now, after playing 28 and 32 minutes yesterday in LA, respectively, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol will both be out, too:

That’ll probably mean another start for Nico Laprovittola, provided he’s not confused for a local barista and asked to work a double over at Good Coffee. It also means more minutes for Patty Mills, whose highest career scoring average (11ppg) is against his former team.

Blazers’ struggles

Portland’s lost 8 of its last 9 and four in a row. That includes a 45-point thumping in Oakland, the DeMarcus Cousins Game, and a narrow loss at home to the Mavs. The vibe from the Blazers camp is that they’re a team searching for answers right now, which should mean good things for a Spurs group that’s been solid on the road.

Portland’s one-way stars

As great as they are offensively, Lillard and McCollum may present Portland with as many issues on the other end. This piece from Blazer’s Edge lays out their defensive woes in detail, but one broad takeaway is that across almost every play type — be it against the pick and roll or in isolation — the duo are among the worst in the league. When you start throwing multiple screens and them, especially off the ball, breakdowns occur, and the Spurs are known to do that sort of thing.

Vegas line: Spurs by 3.

Game prediction: Spurs by 7.

For the Blazers fans perspective, visit Blazer’s Edge.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.

PtR's Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR's Twitter feed.