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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers

The first of back to back games at the Moda Center tonight for the Spurs

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

They might not have a historic double-digit losing streak to their name like the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs have, but the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled just as much as those two ball clubs this season. They’re 8-21 in their first season without longtime franchise cornerstone Damian Lillard, who was (eventually) traded after the franchise decided to draft Scoot Henderson with the 3rd overall pick in June’s draft. Along with Henderson, Portland has a handful of interesting young players, but find themselves in the same boat as the Spurs when it comes to their ability to play winning basketball.

Tonight’s match-up represents the first of two straight games from the Moda Center. Victor Wembanyama is also poised to miss at least one of the two games as the team slowly works him back from the ankle roll he suffered before the Dallas game. This all comes at a time where head coach Gregg Popovich appears to be, if his comments following the latest loss to the Jazz are any indication, seriously considering more shake-ups in his search for accountability with the NBA’s youngest squad.

San Antonio Spurs (4-25) at Portland Trail Blazers (8-21)

December 28 2023 | 9:00 PM CT

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Victor Wembanyama, ankle (day to day), Devonte’ Graham, illness (OUT), Charles Bassey, out for the year

Blazers Injuries: Shaedon Sharpe, groin (day to day), Deandre Ayton, knee (day to day)

What to watch for

  • Following Wemby’s return against the Jazz Tuesday night after sitting out the previous game for the aforementioned rolled ankle, Pop told reporters that the Spurs rookie would be limited to just one of the two games in Portland, with no indication of which game that would be. Smart money could be on him missing this first one though and suiting up for the second, with Pop apparently being of the mind that Wembanyama didn’t quite look like himself in his 24 minutes against Utah. Two extra days of rest before his next game sounds like Pop Logic.
  • Scoot Henderson is having a rough start to his rookie season. He missed a big chunk of November recovering from an ankle sprain suffered earlier that month, making his return to playing with Portland’s new G-League team, the Rip City Remix. He’s averaging 11 points a game on just 37% shooting from the field and 25% from 3.
  • Portland was also, until very recently, without the services of 5th year shooting guard Afernee Simon after a thumb injury kept him out for all of November. Since making his return on December 6th against the Golden State Warriors, Simon has averaged 28 points per game on shooting splits of 46/40/92, along with 3 rebounds and 5 assists. He dropped 41 against the Washington Wizards in just his 8th game back from the injury.
  • With Keldon Johnson already set to come off the bench for the foreseeable future, it will be interesting to see what other moves Pop will make following his comments on Tuesday. Following that loss, Popovich told reporters that he, “…need(ed) to demand more from certain people. It’s time they be more consistent or I start making changes.” Who those, “certain people,” could be is anyone’s guess (and many have DEFINITELY been guessing), but the reality may just be that this young team simply doesn’t have enough difference makers on it as presently constructed. Perhaps those public comments could be what lights the proverbial match, though. Wouldn’t that be something?

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

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