In a game fraught with large runs made on multiple occasions by Portland and San Antonio, it was the Spurs that generated the push that ultimately mattered and won 113-92. The Blazers surged out on a 15-2 run coming out of the gates, which they again gave away fairly quickly to the host Spurs. Portland rode a hot shooting second quarter to grab the advantage and looked very capable of knocking off a sluggish San Antonio squad.
San Antonio’s starters turned the game in their favor in the third period and held off any further runs by the visitors. Both teams were nearly done in by horrid 3-point shooting throughout, but San Antonio was able to connect on just enough in the second half to get themselves to a respectable percentage. San Antonio was able to notch the regular season sweep of their Oregon counterparts, and pushed their losing streak to seven.
San Antonio, missing All-Star Dejounte Murray and stalwart center Jakob Poeltl, was paced by Keldon Johnson (28 points), who captured his sixth straight 20-point scoring game, Tre Jones (18 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds), and Zach Collins (18 points and 13 rebounds).
Portland, without superstar Damian Lillard and a formidable rotation contingent, was led by veteran Ben McLemore (19 points and 3 assists), rookie Keon Johnson (19 points) and Drew Eubanks (13 points and 13 rebounds).
Tonight’s outcome - paired with the Lakers’ earlier 118-129 loss to the Nuggets - cut the Spurs’ (33-45) magic number to two and moved them two games ahead of Los Angeles Lakers (31-47) for the 10th position with the key tiebreaker in hand. San Antonio’s win also knocked the Sacramento Kings out of playoff consideration for the 16th straight season.
- ESPN’s 5:30 PM SportsCenter edition contained a nice piece on Aliyah Boston, University of South Carolina’s MVP frontcourt player, who received a commemorative high school jersey (as the most accomplished women’s player ever from the Virgin Islands) at her graduation. That jersey now hangs next to one done previously for none other than the VI’s native son Timothy Theodore Duncan.
- The Spurs’ 2.19 assist-to-turnover ratio could set the all-time NBA record if it holds up over these last four games. That is some good ball protection. Tonight was no different as they had 25 assists to 12 turnovers.
- Sequence of the Game #1 - Aerial Adjustment Edition: After a feed from Walker IV late in the opening frame, Vassell wound up for a tomahawk dunk, but a more-than-capable effort from Eubanks forced him to corkscrew a lay-up home instead.
- Sequence of the Game #2 - NBA Jam Edition: Late in the opening half, Vassell found a cutting Johnson for a one-handed dunk
- I’ve been trying to figure out what Jones’ go-to move is and settled on ‘drifting left to right in the lane for a scoop lay-up.’
- Devin’s Deeds: Early in the first, Vassell looked away the defender closing out on him, which gave him a smidge of space to nail a three.
- Other than a Big Body layup in traffic, the listless Spurs could not find their shooting touch and the Blazers jumped ahead 15-2 - with Greg Brown III supplying the outside buckets during the initial run. Eubanks finally made good on his promise to impact the game differently after the recent set of losses to the Spurs with his rebounding and dunking. Back-to-back triples by Vassell and Jones sliced the deficit in half. Buckets by Jock Landale and Keita Bates-Diop pulled San Antonio within two. After a handful of misses, a Josh Richardson floater tied things at 23, and Walker IV’s three cinched a 12-0 run to end the quarter and put the Spurs up 26-23.
- Landale turned his ankle in the opening minute of the second quarter and looked visibly impacted - leaving Zach Collins as the only rotation big. Reggie Perry swiped a few steals and converted in transition to help the Blazers reclaim an advantage. After Collins was wrapped up and awarded a clear-path foul, a fan could be audibly heard screaming “Let’s play some <expletive> defense, bro!” Romeo Langford got some floor time and assisted on a Collins layup. Another Eubanks dunk pushed his team up by nine. Keldon’s three pulled San Antonio within four in the final minute. A pair of backdoor cuts by McLemore along with a pull-up three netted him eight straight points and Portland went into the break up 56-48.
- Collins banked home a shotclock-beating three to start the third frame. Jones went on a personal 5-0 run to force a tie. Joshua Primo then made his presence felt all over the court, whether it was wresting away rebounds, probing the defense for passing opportunities, or generally being a pest to unsuspecting Blazers. Johnson’s and Primo’s catch-and-shoot threes gave San Antonio an eight point lead on yet another huge run. The teams traded baskets for several minutes until a pair of Bates-Diop buckets followed by free throws from Walker IV made it 80-70 going into the fourth.
- At the start of the fourth, Jones was the beneficiary of another clear-path foul from Portland, which allowed San Antonio to extend its advantage. Consecutive threes from Walker IV and Johnson made it a 15-point game. Vassell took a shot to the neck and exited the game immediately, while his teammates put the finishing touches on their six win in their last seven games.
For the Blazers fan’s perspective, please visit the Blazer’s Edge.
San Antonio heads to Denver to take on the Nuggets team that knocked off the Lakers today Tuesday night at 8:00 PM CT