The San Antonio Spurs have been playing in a fugue state lately, and it hasn’t been pretty to watch. The Spurs suffered of their worst losses in the Gregg Popovich era against the Timberwolves on the road, but they’ve been better at home this year, and it seemed that a home game against a struggling Rockets squad on a four game losing streak might be an opportunity to make amends. It was not to be, and the Spurs laid another egg on Friday against James Harden and the Rockets. Some meaningless points in garbage time prevented another 40 point blowout, but a 30 point loss is still plenty embarrassing. Turkey seems to have a negative impact on energy levels [Damn you, trytophan!], so perhaps the lackluster performance of the past two games can be attributed to Thanksgiving leftovers. Otherwise, I’d be forced to blame the lack of identity on offense and poor skills on defense for these terrible results.
It doesn’t get any easier against the Portland Trail Blazers. While the Blazers have seen themselves slide down the standings over the past couple weeks, they still have one of the most offensively potent backcourt duos in the NBA. Pair that with the Spurs inability to keep guards from getting wherever they want on the court, and the Spurs could find themselves on the losing end of another blowout if something doesn’t change.
December 2nd, 2018 | 6:00 CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI
Spurs (10-12) at Trail Blazers (13-9)
San Antonio Spurs
Dejounte Murray (Out Indefinitely - Knee), Lonnie Walker IV (Started Playing in G-League - Knee), Pau Gasol (Out Indefinitely - Foot)
Portland Trail Blazers
Trying not to be a prisoner of the moment
The first 20 games of the season didn’t exactly resemble the glory days of the Spurs franchise, but they were a .500 team, staying in contention in the competitive Western Conference while waiting for LaMarcus Aldridge to get back on track. While losing by 70 points over a two game span is distressing, I find it hard to believe the first 20 games were a fluke. The Spurs aren’t a great team, and I don’t think there’s anything they can do in the short term to change that fact, but they certainly aren’t as bad as the team we’ve seen the past two games.
The Spurs perfect head-to-head record is in jeopardy
The Spurs have seen several impressive achievements come to an end this season, and unfortunately, there probably will be more to come as the season progresses. Amazingly, the Spurs have a winning record against every franchise currently in the NBA. The closest franchise to the Spurs is the Blazers, who trail them by just one game. A Blazers win would tie the overall head-to-head results at 84-84.
Matchups to watch
Over the last few seasons, we’ve gotten used to seeing Aldridge dominate opposing big men, but he hasn’t done that consistently season. Jusuf Nurkic was relatively quiet during the Blazers’ victory over the Spurs earlier in the Season, but Aldridge will have his hands full defending the Blazers big man. Nurkic’s offensive game continues to improve, and it’s a chore keeping him off the glass.
A big part of both team’s recent struggles can be attributed to poor perimeter defense. It’s possible that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum may actually be worse at defense than Bryn Forbes and DeMar DeRozan. All four guards should have no trouble getting open looks, but I don’t feel confident in the Spurs’ ability to win many shootouts.
By the numbers
This is normally where I display a fancy table, showing where the Spurs should have an advantage and vise versa. Forget about all that right now. The Spurs of the past two games are not the same as the previous 20, and until they get back to at least looking like an NBA team, what they’ve done in previous games is meaningless.
The only number that matters, in my opinion, is the effective field goal percentage (EFG%) of the Blazers. The Spurs are the second worst team in the NBA in opponent EFG%, and it’s gotten worse lately. If the Spurs can’t stop their opponents, they aren’t going to win very many games. Their slow-paced offensive style is only effective if they can get stops on the other end. Until they do, the Spurs will continue to lose.
The Spurs are not playing with a lot of energy or confidence right now, and the Blazers will look to pounce on the fragile Spurs early and often. Until the Spurs prove to us - and more importantly themselves - that they are a much better team than they’ve shown the past couple games, I have a hard time believing the Spurs can win a game against a playoff-caliber team. Prove me wrong Spurs. Please, prove me wrong.
Vegas odds: Spurs by 1
Game Prediction: Blazers by 17
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.