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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers

The Silver and Black hit the road in search of their third victory of the new year.

Portland Trailblazers v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs begin a three-game Western Conference road trip tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers as they search for their third win of the new year. Rounds one and two went to their Pacific Coast foes, but perhaps the third time will be the charm for Gregg Popovich and his gifted collection of youngsters.

Despite a brief stint at the top of the league standings earlier this season, Portland has lost seven of their last nine games, slipping into 13th place in the conference. They also squandered a 25-point halftime lead to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night, which could leave them highly motivated or debilitated for the SEGABABA.

San Antonio Spurs (14-32) at Portland Trail Blazers (21-25)

January 23, 2022 | 9:00 PM CST

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs: Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way), Charles Bassey (Out — Two-Way), Devin Vassell (Out — Knee), Blake Wesley (Out — On Assignment),

Blazers: Justise Winslow (Out — Calf)

What To Watch For

  • Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons are the sharpshooting backbones of the Portland offense, but Jerami Grant has proved himself a premier third option for head coach Chauncey Billups this season. The versatile combo forward has transformed from a second-round developmental project into a steadfast three-level scorer that can get to his spots with or without the ball. His gradual improvements over the last nine years have helped Grant exceed his draft day expectations by a country mile, offering an optimistic outlook for unpolished prospects across the league. Not only does Jerami average 21.7 points per game, but he owns the eighth-highest three-point percentage (42.8%) in the NBA. San Antonio will have a tremendous chore on their hands figuring out how to contain Lillard and Simons, and Grant is liable to give their rickety defense a migraine.
  • Josh Richardson, Zach Collins, and Doug McDermott deserve recognition for their extraordinary contributions to the second unit over the last three weeks. They have all averaged more than ten points per game during that span, shot over 50% from the field and 40% from the three-point line, and been a massive part of why San Antonio has the highest-scoring bench in the NBA (43.6 PPG). The Spurs have relied on their reserves to keep them competitive all season, but since Devin Vassell landed on the sidelines for arthroscopic knee surgery, their importance has increased tenfold. PATFO could be looking to move on from one or all of this trio as the annual trade deadline approaches. Unless that moment transpires before this matchup, head coach Gregg Popovich will continue depending on his sparkplugs for some much-needed production off the pine in Portland.
  • Keldon Johnson has battled inconsistencies throughout his first go-round as the uncontested go-to scorer for the Spurs, ranking 52nd out of the 57 players averaging at least 20 points per game in the NBA this season. The fourth-year small forward has shot below league average from practically every zone on the court, though he has made substantial progress in one encouraging area since the new year began. Which part of the hardwood? That would be none other than the free-throw line. Keldon has earned an eye-popping 7.1 trips to the charity stripe over his last eight games, nailing 87.7% of those 57 attempts. He is drawing fouls at a career-best rate with an assortment of fakes, rip-throughs, and physical drives, and the Blazers are a near-perfect matchup. Portland lacks a legitimate rim protector, and they have allowed the third-most shots at the rim. The Big Body could be in for a fruitful night.

For the Blazers fans’ perspective, please visit Blazer’s Edge.

The Game Thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action on PtR’s Twitter feed.