The San Antonio Spurs came up short in a second-half comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers, 128-112, failing to uncover a viable answer for a white-hot Damian Lillard. The shorthanded youngsters made several runs in the third quarter, but a more experienced squad picked apart the holes in their disorganized defense.
Keldon Johnson led the Silver and Black with 25 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, as Doug McDermott added 14 points and three triples off the pine. Damian Lillard led the way for Portland, detonating for 37 points, five rebounds, eight assists, and two steals. Anfernee Simons also pitched in 23 points to help push the Blazers past the finish line.
- Charles Bassey started for the first time in his NBA career as Zach Collins and Jakob Poeltl sat on the sidelines mending from various bumps and bruises. The second-year center hacked Jusuf Nurkic for an ane-one and left a floater short, but he eventually settled in after a couple of possessions.
- Gregg Popovich turned to Jeremy Sochan to take over point guard duties when Tre Jones went to the bench halfway through the first quarter. Though the six-eight rookie made simple reads and no-frills dishes, he looked comfortable getting the Spurs into their halfcourt offense as the lead ballhandler.
- After an off night from Keldon Johnson on Monday that probably had fans sweating at the thought of another extended cold spell, he bounced back with a fantastic performance against the Blazers. The fourth-year slasher notched 25 points on efficient 10-of-16 (62.5%) shooting, getting back to what he does best. Johnson attacked the rim with decisive drives, getting to the charity stripe eight times and coughing up the ball once. Hopefully, his continued reluctance to shoot the three-ball ends soon, but for now, you can take solace in Keldon showing confidence again.
- Malaki Branham looks like he could sure use a stint in the G League right about now. He has played more minutes than expected since a laundry list of injuries has left the Spurs shorthanded virtually every night. The rookie has struggled to adjust to the next level without a well-defined role in the offense. Perhaps operating as the go-to guy for the Austin Spurs could help him build confidence and find a little rhythm.
- Keita Bates-Diop is the quintessential blue-collar basketball player. He boxes out, snags loose balls, makes clever cuts, rotates on time, and communicates with teammates on both ends. He isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing scorer in the league, but he somehow sneaks through the cracks, and before you know it, he suddenly hits double figures. That was the case tonight as the 26-year-old forward had a team-high 12 points at the half despite San Antonio rarely looking to get the rock in his hands.
- The Spurs avoided digging themselves into early holes during their three-game winning streak, which was one of the main reasons for their speedy turnaround after a double-digit losing skid that almost lasted an entire month. Unfortunately, San Antonio fell behind by 11 points in the first quarter, and the Trail Blazers extended their buffer to as many as 19 points before halftime. The Silver and Black rallied, though it was too little too late.
- Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons are the nearest approximation to the Splash Brothers in the NBA. The interchangeable guards can drain catch-and-shoot, off-the-dribble, and movement threes while taking turns running the Portland offense. No one has blended shot versatility and three-point volume like Lillard and Simons have this year. San Antonio got a front-row experience of how dangerous that duo can be for a disconnected defense.
- PATFO waived Alize Johnson and promptly signed Stanely Johnson off the free-agent market on Tuesday. Though San Antonio entered the evening shorthanded, the veteran journeyman didn’t check into the game until the two-minute mark of the final frame. Fans hoping to get their first genuine glimpse at the former lottery pick will have to wait another night, but with rotation acting like a revolving door, they might see him sooner than later.
For the Trail Blazers fans’ perspective, please visit Blazer’s Edge.