How time has flown since the last time the San Antonio Spurs faced off against the Portland Trail Blazers. We’ve entered a new year, the Spurs decided to be one of the most active trade partners in the NBA, and the Blazers have lost both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum for the season (one due to injury and the other to a trade). On December 2, the Spurs put on one of their best performances of the season, beating the Blazers 114-83. This was the third win of the Spurs’ season best four-game winning streak.
Now, the Spurs look to use the Blazers to continue their winning ways again after defeating the Golden State Warriors 110-108 behind the heroics of Keldon Johnson. The Blazers look to do the same, as they snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the Detroit Pistons, 119-115. Both teams find themselves two games behind the New Orleans Pelicans in the loss column, so a win would be huge for both teams.
Even with a win their last time out, the Blazers are still in the midst of a downward spiral. They’re 2-10 over their last 12 games, so hopefully this doesn’t become a trap game for the Spurs. It can be easy to overlook a struggling team with missing pieces, especially when they get the chance at payback against the Pelicans their next time out.
San Antonio Spurs (28-44) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (27-44)
March 23, 2022 | 9:00 PM CST
Watch: CW35 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Blazers Injuries: Greg Brown III (Probable – ankle), Eric Bledsoe (Out – Achilles), Josh Hart (Out – knee), Joe Ingles (Out – knee), Damian Lillard (Out – core), Nassir Little (Out – shoulder), Didi Louzada (Out – knee), Jusuf Nurkic (Out – foot), Anfernee Simons (Out – knee)
Spurs Injuries: Keita Bates-Diop (Probable – back), Devontae Cacok (Out – G League), Romeo Langford (Out – hamstring), Doug McDermott (Out – ankle), DJ Stewart (Out – G League), Lonnie Walker IV (Out – back), Robert Woodard II (Out – G League)
What to Watch for
- Can the Spurs take advantage of a short-handed team? Sometimes it seems like the Spurs make it harder on themselves than it should be, like losing a double-digit lead multiple times against the Warriors and needing a last-second miracle from Keldon Johnson to go in. With a couple days of rest and facing a Portland team missing many of its key players, the Spurs should be able to build some momentum heading into the final nine games of the regular season. They’ll need to stay focused, though, as this is the NBA and everybody is trying to win.
- Will the Spurs step up defensively? Over the last 15 games, the Spurs have given up an average of over 121 points per game, which includes the 2OT game against the Washington Wizards and the barn burner against the Minnesota Timberwolves when Karl-Anthony Towns scored 60 points. Finding their footing on the defensive end in this game could go a long way in how the Spurs finish the season.
- Can Dejounte Murray continue his tremendous play? Since the start of February, Dejounte has averaged 24.3 points, 9.7 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game. This comes on 48.4% shooting from the field, 32% from three, and 84.1% on free throws. The free throw percentage and his attempts is really the welcoming sight, as the best scorers in the league tend to not only get to the line numerous times a game, but they convert on those attempts. Should the Spurs find themselves in the play-in, it’ll likely be because of Dejounte continuing to play like this.
- Who will step up next? While Dejounte has been leading the way, Keldon and Lonnie Walker have been the leading scorers behind him. But to win in the NBA, teams need The Others to step up. Last time out, Josh Richardson was the catalyst the Spurs needed when shots weren’t falling. The Spurs will, in all likelihood, need him, Joshua Primo, Tre Jones, or maybe most importantly, Devin Vassell to get it going offensively. Should any of them get hot, the Spurs should walk out of the Moda Center with a second consecutive victory.