The San Antonio Spurs dominated a shorthanded Portland squad from the opening tip to the final buzzer as they defeated the Trail Blazers, 114-83, and picked up their third consecutive victory.
Some uncharacteristically strong three-point shooting gave them a double-digit lead during the first half, but it was their solid inside-out defense that sealed the deal down the stretch.
Bryn Forbes led the Spurs in scoring with 18 points off the bench, with Dejounte Murray stuffing the stat sheet yet again to the tune of 15 points, seven rebounds, 13 assists, and two steals.
Doug McDermott had 16 points in his return, Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poelt chipped in 14 points apiece, and Derrick White continued finding his footing with 12 points, seven boards, and five dimes.
CJ McCollum and Norman Powell both notched 16 points for the Blazers, but it wasn’t enough to keep Portland’s ten-game home winning streak in tact down Damian Lillard and Nassir Little.
- Doug McDermott returned to the rotation after sitting out the last couple of games with knee soreness and immediately made his presence felt. The veteran sharpshooter knocked down an above-the-break three in the opening moments of the contest and drained a corner triple a few possessions later. Not only did McBuckets visibly improve San Antonio’s spacing inside the starting lineup, but he brought much-needed off-ball movement with timely cuts and drives off screens.
- Dejounte Murray may not always dazzle fans with flashy passing, but he takes care of the ball and feasts off simple reads in the pick-and-roll. The sixth-year point guard has developed great patience as a playmaker and mastered the pocket pass, two essential tools in the floor general tool kit. Murray racked up ten assists in the first half and became the first Spur since Avery Johnson in 1999 to have multiple 13 assist games in a single season.
- The Spurs have made 44 fewer three-pointers than any other team in the NBA this season, and it should come as no surprise that their opponents have outscored them by 165 points from beyond the arc. However, San Antonio flipped the script early. The good guys nailed a season-high 11 triples in the first half, which was more threes than they had in 11 of their first 20 games. They fell a bit cold in the final frames, though Bryn Forbes helped them get back on track with a couple of momentous three-balls.
- Thaddeus Young was the first big off the bench for the first time all season, which was a welcome sight after his brief relegation to the third-string when Jakob Poeltl cleared health and safety protocols. The 33-year-old small-ball center displayed his two-way prowess, picking off a pass before hitting Lonnie Walker IV for a wide-open trifecta in transition.
- Head coach Gregg Popovich continued straying from his usual rotations as he called on Tre Jones to bolster the second unit in the opening frame instead of Bryn Forbes. The undersized guard didn’t provide much scoring, though he hustled for loose balls, drew an offensive foul on a full-court press, and found Lonnie with a hit-ahead pass for a resounding fastbreak slam.
- The Blazers were on a ten-game home winning streak and had lost just one game at the Moda Center heading into this contest against the Spurs. But with Damian Lillard and Nassir Little sidelined, a shorthanded Portland team had little room for error. An early injury to Anfernee Simons further swayed things in San Antonio’s favor, and sometimes the basketball gods are just on your side. The Blazers made a run to cut the lead down to 12 points in the fourth quarter, but the Silver and Black came roaring back and forced garbage time. Pop and company now improve to 6-1 when holding opponents under 100 points this season.
- The Blazers needed CJ McCollum and Norman Powell to step up in the absence of Damian Lillard if they wanted to avoid falling below .500 for the first time in a few weeks. But the Spurs perfectly understood the defensive assignment in front of them. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Devin Vassell, and Tre Jones took turns hounding Portland’s potent backcourt throughout the first half, holding them to 21 points on 6-of-19 from the field. McCollum and Powell would finish the game a combined 10-of-31, which was a significant contributing factor to San Antonio picking up their straight win.
- Jakob Poeltl hosted a block party in Portland, swatting four shots and altering several other attempts. The Blazers attacked the paint countless times throughout the game yet never learned their lesson about challenging the towering rim protector. Poeltl also continued to prove his unmatched touch on floaters wasn’t a fluke as he swished home a handful of teardrops from all around the interior.
- Bryn Forbes has been unplayable at times this season, but it’s almost impossible not to keep him on the court when he’s making shots on the perimeter. San Antonio needed a spark when the Blazers threatened to start a fourth-quarter comeback, and that’s what the six-two marksman did upon entering the contest. Forbes catches a lot of flack from the fanbase, but this is why PATFO brought him back to the 2-1-0 this offseason.
For the Trail Blazers fans’ perspective, please visit Blazers Edge.
The San Antonio Spurs continue their three-game Western Conference road trip on Saturday as they take on Steph Curry and the first-place Golden State Warriors.