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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers

The Spurs begin a quick 2-game West Coast swing tonight at the Moda Center in the city of Portland.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

January continues to be a month of learning for San Antonio. After giving up 61 2nd half points to a Rockets team in their first game of their post-James Harden reality, the Spurs seemingly found that, “appropriate fear,” that head coach Gregg Popovich has been known to preach to his players. San Antonio brought out the clamps in the 2nd half of the rematch on Saturday, limiting Houston to just 38 points in the 2nd half of that game and pulling away with a 103-91 win to put them at 7-6 on the season.

Their opponent tonight, the Portland Trail Blazers, come into this game down a couple of their big guns. Already missing starting center Jusuf Nurkic to a broken wrist, they also could be without starting shooting guard and big-time scorer CJ McCollum, who left Portland’s 112-106 victory over the Atlanta Hawks before the conclusion of the 1st half with a left foot injury. Damian Lillard scored 36 in that win, with 17 coming in the 2nd half with no McCollum, and may have his hands full going forward trying to keep Portland afloat.

The Spurs will need to forget about whatever injuries Portland may be dealing with and bring that defensive effort from the 4th quarter of the Rockets game from the start of tonight’s game if they hope to get 2 games over .500.

San Antonio Spurs (7-6) at Portland Trail Blazers (8-5)

January 18, 2021 | 2:00 PM CST

Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs injuries: Derrick White (toe - OUT), Luka Samanic (sore throat - questionable), Drew Eubanks (health protocols - questionable), Quinndary Weatherspoon (knee - OUT), Keita Bates-Diop (illness - questionable)

Blazers injuries: CJ McCollum (foot - day to day), CJ Elleby (foot - day to day), Jusuf Nurkic (wrist - OUT), Zach Collins (ankle - OUT)

What to watch for

  • Damian Lillard, as he has done throughout his 9 year career, is putting together another great season statistically and continues to shoulder the load for the Blazers. It’s well-established at this point just how dangerous Lillard can be with the ball in his hands from essentially every location within and including the half court line. If he is without his backcourt mate McCollum, expect to see even more activity from Dame on the offensive end.
  • DeMar DeRozan is averaging 6.7 assists a game against just 1.5 turnovers on the season, largely playing the role of main ball handler whenever he is on the court as he’s done since coming to San Antonio. This type of ball security has rubbed off on the entire team, as the Spurs are currently averaging the fewest turnovers per game (10.3) in the entire league. On the other end of that spectrum, San Antonio currently ranks 16th in opponent’s turnovers per game (14.8).
  • San Antonio has had a rough stretch from beyond the arc their last 4 games, going just 32/120 (27%). The Spurs remain near the bottom of the league in 3 point attempts per game, and while they do a good job of limiting 3 point opportunities for their opponents, they throw almost all of that out the window by allowing opposing teams to shoot a few ticks just under 40%, a mark that is neck and neck with the Sacramento Kings. Portland, meanwhile, launches 43 shots from long range a night and converts a cool 38% of them.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge played just 17 minutes in the win over the Rockets over the weekend, with Gregg Popovich opting to close that game out with the former All Star on the bench. Aldridge, who is coming off shoulder surgery, has had a rough start to the season and is currently averaging his lowest numbers across the board since he signed with San Antonio back in 2015, and while he could just need more time to find his footing again, it is a situation worth monitoring going forward.

For the Blazers fans’ perspective, visit Blazer’s Edge.

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.