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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers

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The struggling Blazers visit the AT&T Center to try to get back on track while the Spurs look to stay perfect at home and pick up their 34th win in San Antonio this season.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
March 17, 2016, 7:30 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: NBATV/FSSW Radio: WOAI 1200AM

After an impressive 14-2 stretch, the Portland Trail Blazers have hit a rough patch and have dropped five of their last seven games heading into tonight's contest. And it's not like they lost some close ones, those five losses came by a combined 95 points. Sure, their schedule got tough, with games against the Warriors, Thunder (who took out their frustration after being thoroughly beaten by the Spurs on Saturday night by routing Portland 128-94) , Raptors and Celtics, but it's an inopportune time for a slide for a squad that has found itself soundly in the mix for a playoff spot.

Portland sits in the six-seed for the moment, but there's a four-team race for the last three playoff spots in the West with Houston in seventh, Dallas in eighth and Utah sitting outside of the bubble just two games back in the loss column of Portland. Not many pundits expected Portland to be much of a team, and they've certainly exceeded expectations for a team that lost four of their five starters in the offseason. Looking at their remaining schedule, which pits them against 8 playoff teams in their last 13 games, it seems like their mid-season push may prove to be too little too late for them after an 11-20 start.

The Spurs, meanwhile, have won 18 of their last 20 games, which somehow in this highly unusual season doesn't seem surprising. Of course, the Spurs are also still sporting their unblemished, and league-best, home record of 33-0. So just as Portland is in need of a reprieve from a tough schedule they pull the Spurs in San Antonio and their hold on the six-seed looks tenuous at best.

Portland has gotten a boost from the improved play of Meyers Leonard, who has averaged a plus-5 in his 24 minutes per to go along with 9 points and 7 rebounds over his last nine games while also shooting an impressive 51.6% from deep on a stout 3.4 attempts per game. Unfortunately for the visitors they will be without Leonard against the Spurs as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder.

Portland will have the services of most-obvious-All-Star-snub, Damian Lillard, who is having quite the season, averaging nearly 26 points and 7 assists per contest with an effective field goal percentage of just over 50%. He's the kind of point guard that the Spurs struggle with -- fast, confident and in possession of a deadly jumper -- and over the past six weeks he is averaging over 30 points a game and knocking down 41% of his 9.4 attempts from deep per game. It will be interesting to see what the Spurs' strategy is going to be to try to slow him down and limit his attempts from beyond the arc.

And it's not just Lillard that has the potential to put the kibosh on the good guys' journey toward a perfect season at home as Portland also has the services of the clear front-runner for the NBA's Most-Improved-Player award in C.J. McCollum. As our friends over at Blazer's Edge point out, McCollum has emerged as quite the threat with or without Lillard on the court.

Lillard and McCollum have accounted for 41% of the points that Portland has scored this season. Allen Crabbe is their third most productive scorer and has scored slightly less than 10% of Portland's points. With Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard patrolling the perimeter the Spurs have a great shot at making a perfect home season just seven-games away.

I guess I should mention the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge left the Blazers in the offseason to join San Antonio. The big man appears to have gotten comfortable in a Spurs uniform and has posted a very impressive 24-10 in his last eight games with an elite field goal percentage of 56%.

After several years of giving the Spurs problems, Portland has struggled against the Silver and Black this season, losing the first two contests between the teams by a combined 25 points. With a little context that actually doesn't seem that bad, the Spurs have been completely destroying inferior competition this season, winning 20 games by at least 20 and 15 games by at least 25, which matches the mark set by the 1970-71 and 1971-72 Bucks for most wins in a season by 25 or more points.

With the Warriors coming into the Alamo City for a Saturday night tilt, look for the Spurs to come out strong early and try to put the game out of reach. After two impressive performances against the Thunder and Clippers let's hope that the Spurs don't overlook a dangerous opponent.

Note of Interest:

If the Spurs win the contest they will sport a winning regular-season record against every team in the league, making them, ipso facto, the only team that could hold those bragging rights. They are currently tied with Portland in the all-time series at 79 wins apiece.

Link of Interest:

If you want to learn some things you probably didn't know about the Spurs, check out the game preview on Blazers Edge, our sister site and a blog as good as they come.

San Antonio Spurs: 54-10

Portland Trail Blazers: 35-33

March 17, 2016

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

7:30 pm, CDT

TV: NBATV/FSSW

Starters

Tony Parker*

PG

Damian Lillard

Danny Green

SG

C.J McCallum

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Al-Farouq Aminu

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Noah Vonleh

Tim Duncan

C

Mason Plumlee


Game prediction: Spurs by 14

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

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.