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San Antonio vs. Portland, Final Score: Spurs claim the front end of 2-game series with Blazers 130-111

San Antonio declined to play down to its competition (after some tense opening moments) and surged foward in its play-in aspirations

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs
The recently acquired swingman helped steady his fellow Spurs in the first period with timely scoring
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

After a sloppy start by San Antonio, they broke Portland’s will through intense defense and running it back down their throats in transition for much of the second period while leading as much as 31 in the home win. During its ascent to the big lead, several Spurs entertained the viewing audience with a slew of resounding dunks, exquisite ball movement, and making the most of their open outside looks. With this important victory, the Spurs (32-45) put themselves temporarily 12 game ahead of Los Angeles Lakers (31-45) and 1 12 game back of the New Orleans Pelicans (33-43) with a scant handful of games remaining.

San Antonio, missing All-Star Dejounte Murray due to “non-COVID, upper-respiratory illness” on his celebratory bobblehead night, receivd a balanced effort from a variety of sources, including Keldon Johnson (21 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds; 5 straight 20-point games), Devin Vassell (22 points and 4 rebounds), Joshua Primo (13 points and 4 assists), and bench support from Zach Collins (15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks), Lonnie Walker IV (12 points), and Josh Richardson (12 points).

Portland, absent superstar Damian Lillard and much of its regular rotation, was led by Keon Johnson (20 points) and seven other Blazers in double figures.

Since all of our collective adrenaline levels are still sky high, fellow play-in combatants - Lakers and Pelicans are playing each other on NBA TV at time of publishing.

Observations

  • Those springtime sunsets in San Antonio look perfect on national TV.
  • Volver, Volver” needs to be the quarter-end song each time.
  • Are we all setting aside September 8-10 in our planners for Manu’s enshrinement weekend?
  • Did other people foresee this Drew-surgence happening with Eubanks when he joined the Blazers? I didn’t.
  • The Spurs fiesta unis paired with the classic Blazer ‘Rip City’ editions made for a really pleasant visual experience.
  • The Professor did a thoroughly impressive job of explaining why San Antonio’s comebacks fall short - namely fewer opportunities for “assisted baskets in tight games.” So what did the Spurs do tonight? Followed Dr. Pittsley’s adage: “one of the best ways to win basketball games is to score lots of points.”
  • Ben McLemore is on his sixth team before age 30. That’s rough.
  • One thing not mentioned about this young Spurs squad this season: they drew two shot-clock violations on Portland in the first half.
  • Devin’s Deeds: Vassell’s drive, stutter-step, and stepback dribble into his form-fitting shot is such a pretty thing to watch. And it can directly set up future actions, such as a pump-fake and yet another thunderous jam early in the third quarter.
  • Tre Bien: Jones, walled off on the baseline, swished a H-O-R-S-E shot over the backboard and several Blazers defenders early in the second half.
  • Primo Pix: Off the catch midway through the opening stanza, the rookie burst down the left baseline and threw down a ferocious dunk to net an and-1.
  • Keldon’s Kitchen: In transition partway through the second frame, Keldon executed a deft eurostep to net a scoop lay-in ! #manulives
  • Sequence of the Game Involving a Dunk #1: Zach Collins scooped up an errant miss late in the first and stuffed the ball and the defender’s arms into the hoop.
  • Sequence of the Game Involving a Dunk #2: Lonnie Walker IV ended San Antonio’s dunking exhibition in the first by rampaging down the lane after a Tre Jones feed and delivered a facial.
  • Sequence of the Game Involving a Dunk #3: Jones swiped the ball from an unwitting Blazer to a grateful Johnson (who had just missed a wide open three), who laid it off to Poeltl for a JakJam.
  • Right as I thought, “Hey, when was the last time Lonnie stepped on the side- or baseline?” he priouetted on the sideline and drove the left baseline - converting an acrobatic layup late in the first half. Not to be outdone.. by himself, Walker IV drove down the middle and converted a lefty layup while floating up the right side of the paint shortly after. Not to be outdone again... by himself, Walker IV took a feed from Richardson and did a double-pump layup reminiscent of the all-timer Michael Jordan did to the New Jersey Nets in the early 90s.
  • Eubanks promised a different outcome this time after last month’s blowout loss. Poeltl blocked his first attempt - forcing a turnover. The other frisky Blazers raced out to an 8-0 advantage - doing it by attacking the rim fearlessly, and were able to keep the hosts off the board with backcourt pressure and a 2-3 zone. Richardson found seams in the center of the zone for several quick buckets. Collins was rewarded for his high motor - earning a clear path foul. The Spurs left the period up five despite Portland shooting over 50%.
  • San Antonio gave Pop some nasty to start the second particularly on the defensive end, which kickstarted plentiful opportunities in the transition game and extended its lead to double digits. Poeltl took out his frustrations on the Portland frontline after a lengthy break with deft shotmaking. The Spurs left a rousing and entertaining quarter up 77-49.
  • One of the better developments in the third quarter, with the teams staying 20-30 points apart, was San Antonio being able to delve into its bench and garnering them playing time. While the Spurs hit their inevitable cold spell, Portland, behind grizzled veterans Kris Dunn and McLemore, was able to dent the deficit by eight for the quarter.
  • After San Antonio pushed the lead out again past 25, the Blazers again tried a zone to little success. On a drive by Greg Brown III, Walker IV and Collins managed to dislodge his glasses.

For the Blazers fan’s perspective, visit the Blazer’s Edge.

The teams return to the AT&T Center for another tilt Sunday night at 6:00 PM CT. Fellow play-in competitor New Orleans takes on the Los Angeles Clippers on NBA TV later that evening at 8:30 PM CT.