The Portland Trail Blazers have struggled just as much in their last 10 games as the Spurs have recently. They’ve kicked off the month of April losing by double digits to 3 of the better teams record-wise in the NBA (Bucks, Clippers, Jazz) while also dropping their last two games to respectable, yet struggling, teams (Boston and Miami). Their only wins this month have come in a blowout against OKC and a comfortable win against the Detroit Pistons.
Regardless of how April has gone for them so far, though, they are still dangerous. Damian Lillard is having yet another phenomenal season worthy of the MVP votes he’s sure to garner, leading Portland to a 31-23 record in a season where Portland has been short-handed due to injuries. His backcourt mate, CJ McCollum, is starting to round into shape after dealing with a fractured foot that kept him out for most of January, all of February, and a big chunk of March. Also plagued by injuries has been big man Jusuf Nurkic, who missed essentially the same time as McCollum and has appeared in just 20 games this season for Portland.
The Spurs won the first meeting in Portland back in January 125-104, The Trail Blazer’s first game without McCollum because of the foot fracture. San Antonio was led in scoring in that game with 22 points by LaMarcus Aldridge, 15-year veteran and former Blazer who was released by the Spurs after 5 years in San Antonio after the trade deadline passed and retired just yesterday after a health scare.
Portland Trail Blazers (31-23) vs. San Antonio Spurs (26-27)
April 16, 2021 | 7:30 CT
Watch: KENS | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Gorgui Dieng (shoulder - OUT), Trey Lyles (ankle - OUT)
Blazers Injuries: Zach Collins (foot - OUT)
What to watch for
- This is the first game of a back to back, with a match-up on the road tomorrow night against the Phoenix Suns. If the Spurs are down big early in the second half, there is certainly a chance Pop could pull the plug on his rotation early to keep them somewhat fresh for Phoenix.
- There’s not much that can be written about Damian Lillard that hasn’t already been said. He’s putting up 29 points a night, scoring with a dizzying array of moves and deep shots that force opposing defenders to meet him at halfcourt. With McCollum and Nurkic nursing injuries for a large chunk of the season, Lillard has dragged Portland without a legit #2 option for most of the year and kept them within striking distance of a mid-tiered playoff seed. He dropped 35 in the first meeting with the Spurs and absolutely nobody would be shocked if he had that many again at night’s end.
- Enes Kanter is averaging a career-high 4.3 offensive rebounds a game, largely contributing to Portland being ranked 6th in offensive rebounds per game (10.6). He recently had a 24-30 game against the Detroit Pistons and has 48 rebounds in his last three games combined. His 30 rebounds against Detroit are a Portland franchise record.
- Portland is one of the most prolific 3 point shooting teams in the NBA. They rank 2nd to only the Utah Jazz with 866 made shots from beyond the arc this season and are 6th in 3PT% (38%). Lillard and McCollum take about 20 of Portland’s 42 attempts from behind the arc by themselves.
- Derrick White continues to get better as the season rolls on. In the month of April, White is averaging 19 points a game on 44% shooting from the field, a number that more closely matches his career FG%. While the 3 point shooting continues to be up and down, he is a willing 3 point shooter and is even capable of exploding from that range, going 6/11 from beyond the arc in his 25 point performance in the loss to Toronto.
- Meanwhile, it appears as though DeMar DeRozan is back to avoiding shots altogether from beyond the arc. DeRozan is 0-4 from 3 in his last 10 games, a head-scratching statistic for a wing player in 2021. Perhaps the drought will end tonight?
For the Trail Blazers fan’s perspective, please visit Blazers Edge.
PtR’s Game thread 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.