The Spurs head out on the road for this first time in this very young 2018-19 season to face off in a match-up that has presented many instant classics over the years, regardless of the the outcome. There’s just something about these Spurs vs. Trail Blazers games, especially the ones at The Moda Center, that gets fans from both sides on their feet.
San Antonio Spurs (1-0) at Portland Trail Blazers (1-0)
October 20, 2018 | 9:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: 1200 AM
Spurs injuries: Dejounte Murray (knee), Lonnie Walker IV (knee), Derrick White (heel)
Trail Blazers injuries: Maurice Harkless (knee — probable)
Rinse, Repeat: The Spurs need a road win
We’re going to keep harping on this point until something is done about it, but again: apart from a win in Orlando during the preseason, the Spurs have not won a road game since February 25 in Cleveland. That’s 16 straight road losses (including the playoffs) for anyone who’s counting, it led the Spurs to their first losing road record under Gregg Popovich, and it most certainly hurt their playoff positioning last season considering they were two losses out of third place.
With all the new faces and injuries (plus some other rising teams in the West), the road to the playoffs this season doesn’t promise to be any easier, and the Spurs stand a bigger chance of missing out this time if last season’s road woes carry over. It all starts tonight in a location that has always proven difficult for the Spurs, in a match-up that won’t be easy.
In search of a new “Blazers killer”
As mentioned before, so many Spurs-Blazers games have been nail-biting classics, and quite often that was thanks to one Manu Ginobili. Portland fans won’t hesitate to tell you that he truly was a “Blazer killer” — changing the outcome of games on impossible shots, always rising to the occasion against them, etc — and he made sure his last performance against them was a memorable one.
Unfortunately, Manu is no longer around to play that role (among many others), so who will step up to fill in the void? LaMarcus Aldridge has been consistently good against his old team, averaging 19.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists while winning six of the seven match-ups he has played in since joining the Spurs. However, the Spurs will need more than just their All-Star big man to step up.
It just so happens that the Blazers feature the exact strength — a pair of elite scoring guards — to counter what could be the Spurs’ biggest weakness this season: perimeter defense. With Danny Green, Kyle Anderson and some other dude I can’t seem to name gone, and Murray, White and Walker sidelined, the defense is going to be hard-pressed to stop Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combined for 49 points in a season-opening win against LeBron James and the Lakers on Thursday night.
The Spurs’ best chance against the Blazers and teams with similar strengths will likely be their own guards’ ability to take advantage of the Portland guards’ similarly weak defense. Whether it’s DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills or Marco Belinelli, someone will have to step up and play Manu’s role of being that thorn in the side of the Blazers that no pair of tweezers could dig out.
Vegas odds: Blazers by 4
Game Prediction: Spurs by 2
For the Blazers fans’ perspective, visit Blazers Edge.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this afternoon for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.