The San Antonio Spurs decimated the shorthanded Portland Trail Blazers, 133-96, as they hosted a three-point part at the Moda Center. Though the casual basketball fan probably couldn’t identify Trenton Watford, Brandon Williams, or CJ Elleby on the sidewalk, a win is a win, and the good guys got a much-needed confidence boost.
Dejounte Murray paced the Silver and Black with 28 points, six rebounds, and seven assists, while Keldon Johnson added 26 points, four board, and one steal. Ben McLemore led the charge for the Blazers with 23 points off the bench. And a familiar face also had a strong outing as Drew Eubanks notched a career-high 20 points and nine boards.
- Despite only a couple of contests separating San Antonio and Portland in the Western Conference standings, these two teams couldn’t possibly be more different. The Spurs are striving for the play-in tournament while the Trail Blazers are content putting their starters on ice as they improve their lottery odds. With Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, Joe Ingles, Nassir Little, and Eric Bledsoe out of commission, head coach Chauncey Billups has resorted to reaching into the recesses of his depth chart. The first-year playcaller trotted out a starting rotation of Kris Dunn, CJ Elleby, Trendon Watford, Justise Winslow, and Drew Eubanks. A single look at that ragtag lineup is all you need to figure out Rip City has reached full throttle tank mode.
- The San Antonio Spurs had only attempted 40 three-pointers in a game four times in franchise history heading into this season. They drained 13 trifectas on 22 attempts in the first half alone and tied a franchise record 20 threes before the officials decided Keita Bates-Diop had the tip of his toes on the line. Portland was disjointed from end to end, and the good guys capitalized for a three-point party.
- San Antonio opened the game by falling behind 2-9 to the shorthanded Blazers but quickly recovered as outscored Portland 43-18 for the rest of the period and finished with a season-high 45 points in the first quarter. They had 81 points at the half, good for the third-most in the league this season. The Silver and Black reached 100 points with 4:49 remaining in the third quarter, finished with 133, and probably could have made the scorekeeper sweat if they kept their foot on the gas pedal.
- San Antonio’s social media post of Keldon Johnson reuniting with Drew Eubanks at center court before the contest began was a heartwarming reminder that these guys are more than athletes. They forge friendships on and off the hardwood. And watching them put aside their relationships and go toe-to-toe is one of the more fascinating aspects of professional sports. Eubanks was all toothy smiles and warm embraces with his former teammates, but he flipped a switch once the ball went up. Although most of his fellow Blazers put together pitiful performances, Drew recorded a career-high 20 points, nine rebounds, and four assists, even drilling a top-of-the-key triple to boot.
- Dejounte Murray was shooting a measly 39.8% from the field over his last five games, but he broke his shooting slump with a much-needed contest versus one of the worst teams in the NBA. The All-Star floor general burst out of the gates for 11 points in the first quarter, ending the opening frame with three straight trifectas. Murray dominated the smaller Brandon Williams for 28 points, six rebounds, seven assists on 10-of-14 shooting. The six-two two-way contract signee never stood a chance against Dejounte, though perhaps this was a teaching moment for the 22-year-old guard.
- There are few things I like despise more than an uncompetitive regular-season basketball game, especially when every team has 82 of them on their schedule. Late tip-offs are also a pain in the butt, and this matchup was a snoozefest for any fan who tuned into Bally Sports. Portland came into the evening with the most 30-point losses in NBA history, but Gregg Popovich and company added a 12th to their total by the final buzzer. For the Blazers faithful who stuck around the Moda Center for 48 minutes of one-sided hoops, you should see if the organization is willing to dole out a gift card or a refund for your loyalty.
- Take this with a grain of salt considering who San Antonio had in front of them, but the good guys put an end to their 27-game streak of allowing at least 100 points to their opponents. Could this be the Spurs turning over a new leaf on the defensive end? Probably not, though fans will take a step in the right direction as this team pursues a play-in tournament berth.
- The Silver and Black are 15 games below .500 with nine matchups left on their schedule, yet they are within striking distance of the final spot in the play-in. Some Spurs fans may be skeptical about San Antonio eeking into the single-elimination tournament. But the incompetence and white flags waving across the bottom of the Western Conference have gifted them a slive of hope. Does a team with this record belong in the postseason? No might be your first instinct, though playoff basketball is enticing for a city accustomed to basketball excellence. A better lottery pick would also be quite intriguing. Whatever side of the argument you fall on, remember to respect your fellow fan.
For the Blazers fans’ perspective, please visit Blazer’s Edge.
The San Antonio Spurs return to the hardwood on Saturday as they square off with the New Orleans Pelicans in a matchup that has significant play-in implications.