After snapping a five-game losing streak with a huge-for-standings-purposes 113-104 win over a shorthanded Sacramento Kings team last night, the San Antonio Spurs will be looking to get back to .500 on a SEGABABA against a Portland Trail Blazers club that fought its way to a win over the LeBron-less Lakers last night. The victory moved them into the 6th seed and outside play-in tournament range, and they will be looking to keep it that way.
While the Spurs’ win over the Kings combined with a New Orleans Pelicans loss — game and Zion Williamson to a broken finger — has all but made them a shoo-in to make the play-in tournament at this point, all six remaining games still matter greatly. It won’t be easy, with all of them being against playoff teams, but the Spurs will need to build some momentum and confidence over the next nine days if they hope to make any kind of postseason noise.
San Antonio Spurs (32-33) at Portland Trail Blazers (38-29)
May 8, 2021 | 9:00 PM CST
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Derrick White (Out — ankle), Trey Lyles (Out — ankle)
Trail Blazers Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — ankle)
What to Watch For
- Last time they met: In one of their many disappointing home losses this season, the Spurs blew a double-digit lead to Portland back on April 16, turned the ball over on their second-to-last possession to give up the lead, and missed three shots on their final possession to lose by a point. The pain was only compounded by the Last Two Minute Report noting that they should have gotten gotten free throws on that final possession after Jakob Poeltl’s arms were slapped on the final attempt (ignoring the fact that it never should have gotten to that point in the first place). However, the Spurs won with relative ease in their other visit to Portland this season, a 125-104 win back in January, although the Blazers were missing CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic at the time.
- Not the only tired team, for once: If one factor has been the biggest disadvantage for the Spurs in the second half of this season, it’s rest — or lack thereof. More often than not, the Spurs have entered the match-up as the more tired team, whether it’s coming off a back-to-back, in the midst of a FIGASENI, or just the fact that they have not had two consecutive nights off since the All-Star break. However, the playing field will be leveled a bit tonight with both teams on a SEGABABA, although Portland doesn’t have to travel tonight. Still, at this point and in their current state of exhaustion, the Spurs will take any non-advantage for the other team they can get. (Another tiny note: like the Spurs, the Blazers have been significantly better on the road than at home, so theoretically that should be another Spurs advantage, or at least a Blazers non-advantage.)
- Going back to what worked: When White went down last week, Gregg Popovich made the decision to start Devin Vassell in his place and keep Lonnie Walker leading the bench unit. While a good idea in theory, it just didn’t work out as the Spurs went 0-5 during that stretch. As a result, Pop decided to shake things up again and go back to what was working when White was out early in the season: starting Walker. The decision appeared impactful in the snapping of their losing streak against the Kings. Walker was energetic and brought some life to the Spurs’ starters, helping avoid a slow start, and stayed engaged throughout. Back with the bench unit, Vassell’s presence helped tighten up the defense without taking offensive touches away from Rudy Gay, who remains the hot hand for that unit. It can be assumed that Pop will go with the same line-ups again tonight, and hopefully the results are the same as well.
For the Blazers fans’ perspective, visit Blazers 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.