Simply unable to string together enough stops when it mattered, the Spurs let a vulnerable Trail Blazers team close them out with a 39 point 4th quarter en route to a 125-117 loss on Thursday night. The win gave the Trail Blazers a 2-1 victory in the teams’ season series and a game and a half advantage in the standings.
For much of the night, though, it seemed just as likely to go the other direction. The Spurs built multiple leads only to watch the home team reel them back in each time. Early in the 4th, the Silver and Black went up by 8 on a pair of Patty Mills free throws, but in a scene eerily reminiscent of the Lakers’ outburst 2 nights ago, the Trail Blazers made their next 6 three pointers, on their way to a 9 of 10 showing from deep in the final frame.
Meanwhile, the Spurs were 0 for 5 from behind the arc in the 4th until Patty finally made one with 30 seconds to go and the game already out of reach. All those threes were enough to overcome the Spurs’ significant advantages at the free throw line and in turnovers. The Spurs took and made 16 more free throws and turned the ball over 8 fewer times, which would usually be a recipe for success.
That it didn’t matter in this game is yet another indictment of the Spurs defense, specifically their inability to defend on the perimeter. All four of the Trail Blazers’ guards scored in double digits, with Damian Lillard leading the way with 26 points and 10 assists. C.J. McCollum added a quiet 19 points, while Gary Trent Jr. chipped in 18 on 6 of 7 from three and Afernee Simons scored 10 in just 15 minutes.
On the other end, the Spurs held their own for the first 3 quarters, led by Trey Lyles. Trey, whose 23 points is tied for the 4th highest scoring output of his career, needed just 11 shooting possessions to get there and managed to pull down 10 rebounds, too. But the “Trey Lyles game” wasn’t to be.
The Spurs’ offense sputtered to a halt at exactly the wrong time, and the Trail Blazers closed the game out with a level of ease and confidence that made the competitive portion of the contest feel over long before the game situation dictated that reality. The Trail Blazers calmly put the Spurs to bed in a game that really matters in the standings, which says just about everything you need to know about this Spurs’ season.
- The Spurs’ played a turnover free 1st quarter and managed to make it all the way to 7:12 remaining in the 2nd before giving it away for the 1st time. Their 4 turnovers on the night is the team’s best performance in that area since December 29th, 2013, when they also had 4 turnovers in a victory over the Kings. Amazingly, teams that turn the ball over 4 times or less in a game this season are just 4-6.
- Neither of the Spurs’ stars had particularly efficient games. DeMar DeRozan put up 21 points on 6 of 16 from the floor and 9 of 9 from the free throw line to go with 7 rebounds and 6 assists, while LaMarcus Aldridge scored 20 on 9 of 23 shooting and had 8 rebounds and 4 assists of his own. Pretty much all of the Spurs’ efficient scoring punch came from Derrick White, Patty Mills and Trey.
- Just about every Blazer had a good offensive night, though. In addition to putting up a bunch of points, the Trail Blazers’ ball handlers penetrated the Spurs’ defense over and over, drawing help and allowing Hassan Whiteside to dominate the glass. He grabbed 23 boards, including 6 offensive rebounds, to go with his 17 points. Carmelo Anthony managed 8 rebounds of his own along with 20 points on 8 of 15 shooting.
- Even though the games haven’t been especially enjoyable, Bill Land and Sean Elliott remain an incredible broadcast team. Spend any time at all with league pass and it quickly becomes clear they’re one of the best pairings out there. At one point in this game, the Portland faithful were audibly unhappy with a pretty clear foul by Mario Hezonja on a DeMar DeRozan drive, and Bill asked “What, are we in Utah? Portland, you’re better than that.” Let’s hope the Jazz fans don’t come for him.
Next game: @ the Kings on Saturday
The Spurs will head back to California for an opportunity to end their 3 game losing streak. They’ll play 7 straight teams currently headed to the playoffs after that game, so if they don’t turn it around on Saturday, things could get even uglier.