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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Trail Blazers

San Antonio was unable to stem the tide of the Portland onslaught.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers were always going to be a terrible matchup for the Spurs, and they really showed it in this game. On the best of nights, the current version of the Spurs will likely struggle to hold elite perimeter teams in check, and the Blazers guards are about as elite as they come. San Antonio needed to keep the pressure up, score a bunch of points, and hope for a bad shooting performance on the other end.

That's not what happened at all.

As frustrating as it was, it’s important to remember how young the season is and how much room everyone still has to grow. The effort was there, but everyone on the team looked a step behind this Portland squad who have, for the most part, been together for years. Shoot, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been turning opposing defenses out since LaMarcus Aldridge was still their teammate. In contrast, Bryn Forbes was the Spurs’ third string point guard two weeks go.

It’s just jarring to see the Spurs on the wrong end of that particular equation after spending so many years as the league’s continuity poster boys. There are certainly worse problems to have, and given the amount of talent in the organization I have to believe that the situation on defense should improve as the season progresses.

Still . . . 121 points is a lot of points.


  • DeMar DeRozan has this quality about him that seems particularly rare in a Spurs player. It’s like he has a specific instinct for scoring. It just comes to him naturally. Kawhi Leonard blossomed into a wonderful scorer by the end of his time with the Spurs, but his tendency was always more of a “bludgeon them into submission” type thing. DeRozan flows into the run of play, finds open pockets to exist in and get his shot off. He draws people to him and finds teammates without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard. It’s fascinating to watch him work.
  • This was Aldridge’s sixth trip back to Portland and, although a smattering of boos were still there to greet him, his appearance didn’t seem to garner as much vitriol anymore from the home crowd. It’s interesting to think about what specific calculus goes on that determines when or if a wound like that starts to heal. Outside of the passage of time, nothing has really changed much for either party and yet most of the ice seems to have thawed. I have to imagine that keeping up that level of hatred toward a basketball player gets either exhausting or boring after a while. Can’t come up with a specific reason why I’m thinking about that question a bit more this season. Not a single one.
  • Although the score ended up pretty lopsided, the Spurs held their own offensively for a while there. The first half saw the teams trading buckets before the Blazers really ran away with it in the third. It’s obvious that everyone is still getting to know each other, but if you squint really hard you can see the early signs of chemistry starting to form. The ball was whipping around and people were finding each other on quick cuts to the basket. I mean, look at this play . . .

There was plenty of cool stuff like that throughout. Davis Bertans was draining threes and Pau Gasol was driving the lane for dunks. It’ll get drowned out by the performance on the other end, and rightly so, but this team is going to get buckets and that’s going to keep them in a lot of games.

  • I worry that the offense looks like it stagnates whenever DeRozan isn’t on the floor. Even when he doesn’t have the ball, his presence and his movement keep the offense flowing and working, but as soon as he sat, the ball would just end up in Aldridge’s hands at the top of the key with everyone staring at him. It’s not ideal. If only we had some sprightly, bald Argentine to come off the bench and make things happen.
  • Tough night in general for Rudy Gay. At one point he managed to miss three shots on one possession, including one potentially amazing dunk that misfired off the back of the rim. To make matters worse, it looked like he aggravated the heel injury he had last season and re-aggravated during the preseason. Against all odds, here in the year 2018, Rudy Gay is going to be a key player for the Spurs and they can not afford to have him hobbled for any significant stretch.
  • It totally flew under my radar this summer that Becky Hammon had been promoted up the team’s assistants ladder, but it’s awesome to see her deservedly sitting on the front row of the bench this year. Her story continues to be one of the best things happening in the NBA, and its awesome that the Spurs get to be a part of the journey.
  • This seems bad . . .

Is this bad?