The Spurs and Trailblazers meet on Saturday night for the third and final time of the regular season but first in the friendly confines of the AT&T Center. Portland rides into San Antonio hoping to avoid the Texas three-step, having lost in Dallas on Tuesday night and in Houston on Thursday. Despite these loses, Rip City can clinch the third spot in the West with one more W. The Spurs trip to L.A. proved at least as miserable — as the Silver & Black blew both games at the Staples Center against the Clippers and Lakers. With two home games and one on the road remaining, San Antonio probably needs at least two wins to ensure its 21st consecutive playoff appearance.
San Antonio Spurs (44-34) vs. Portland Trailblazers (48-31)
April 7, 2018 | 8:00 pm
Watch: FSSW, Listen: WOAI 1200
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (RFIM) out
Trailblazer injuries: Damian Lillard (ankle) probable, Noah Vonleh (calf) GTD, Ed Davis (ankle) DTD, Maurice Harkless (knee) out
NOT JUST LILLARD
Without Damien Lillard in Houston, Portland erased a 17-point Rocket lead only to lose by two on Chris Paul’s last second shot. And though C.J. McCullum and Jusuf Nurkic played their usual leading roles, the real stars were Shabazz Napier, Wade Baldwin IV, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, and Caleb Swanigan. In other words, Portland is now far more than a team dependent upon Lillard. Since a February 5 loss to Detroit, their 19-6 record has been one the league’s best, propelling them to third place in the Western Conference.
As of late Friday, the Spurs sit in fifth place in the West tied with the Thunder, one game back of the 4th place Jazz. However, the Jazz hold the tiebreaker over the Spurs, but the Spurs hold the tiebreaker over the Thunder. The Spurs final regular season opponent, New Orleans, sits a ½ game back in the 7th position. One game behind San Antonio in the 8th and final spot are the Timberwolves and Nuggets, though Denver would miss the playoffs as Minnesota holds that tie breaker.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
While the Spurs have lost seven consecutive road games (and 11 of their past 12), they have won their last nine at home. On the road, the team averages 100 points and surrenders 99.7, leaving a slim .03 differential. Though the defensive number remains constant at home, San Antonio ups its scoring to 105.4 points per game for a 5.7-point differential. Though home and away variances are common, these numbers help understand a major part of the Spurs road woes, and their 8-10 record in games of 3 points or less.
The Trailblazers and Spurs split two close games played in Portland earlier in the season. On December 20, San Antonio prevailed 93-91 but Portland won 111-110 on January 7th. The first game featured a starting lineup of Aldridge, Forbes, Gasol, Green and Murray while the second swapped Green for Anderson. The latter lineup is 0-3 while the former is 1-0. However, with all available players reasonable healthy and rested, expect the same lineup of Aldridge, Anderson, Gasol, Murray and Mills that has started the past twelve games and is undefeated at home through those dozen contests. If the team on a nine-game winning streak shows up, Portland will have to wait another night to clinch.
Vegas prediction: Spurs by 4.5
Game prediction: Spurs by 5
For a Trailblazers fan’s 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