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San Antonio vs. Portland, Final Score: Spurs stun Blazers, win convincingly 118-105

Though there have been stylistically prettier games for Wembanyama, tonight’s performance was his signature effort of the season to this point

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers
A concerted effort to find the talented rookie helped San Antonio stake a 28-point lead that it held onto after several Portland runs in the second half
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio (5-25) started its brief two game series with Portland (8-22) by claiming a hard-earned road victory in the first matchup between the two actual top picks from this year’s draft. Victor Wembanyama, and not Scott Henderson (25 points), emerged with the better individual effort and supporting cast this evening. It didn’t hurt that Wembanyama (30 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 7 blocks in just 24 minutes) connected on his first six field goals in a first half team blitzing of the host Blazers.

The Blazers, absent surging star Anfernee Simons, found replacement production from its veterans Jerami Grant (29 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists) and Malcolm Brogdon (29 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists). The Spurs were bolstered by an impressive opening half by Jeremy Sochan (16 points and 7 rebounds), an improved second half by Devin Vassell (17 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals), and a balanced scoresheet.

San Antonio ran up a 20+ point lead in the first, while catching Portland repeatedly flat-footed in transition and in the frontcourt. Sochan and Wembanyama spearheaded the awe-inspiring attack. More impressive than the team’s hot 67% shooting was its handful of steals and deflections throughout the frame.

In the second period, Henderson and Grant steadied the Blazer offensive attack, while the Spurs went cold over a stretch of minutes. Portland’s ability to extend possessions with offensive rebounds allows it to shave the deficit down to as low as 12. Wembanyama’s sixth (by my count) block of the night helped San Antonio head into the break up 59-45.

San Antonio weathered a sustained set of runs led by Grant and Brodgon, as Portland closed within as little as eight. The Spurs needed every bit of Vassell’s and Johnson’s production to stave off the energized Blazers’ push.

Observations

  • Though they suffered their 28th straight setback, the Pistons played the Celtics very tough down the stretch (despite giving up yet another huge lead). And of course, it was Derrick White’s steady playmaking (a timely assist, a steal, a three, and a layup) to sink the rest of the Pistons’ hopes.
  • Brogdon seems like the type of steady guard that the Spurs would benefit from having around.
  • The diagonal lines in the lane - mirroring their pinwheel logo - is a nice touch by Portland.
  • Sandro Mamushkelavili was shown with his left arm around Doug McDermott’s through the whole first timeout.
  • Victor Ease: After he spun left on the first possession for a nice bankshot, it made me think, is he more comfortable turning over his left or right shoulder? I don’t have any evidence pointing one way or another. Early in the fourth, Wembanyama sought out contact early in the shot clock with Ibou Badji to draw two quick fouls.
  • I’m warming up to Julian Champagnie. 15 blocks for the season on inconsistent minutes is pretty awesome. He’s definitely demonstrating one of the higher motors on the team.
  • It’s way too early to tell, but there’s glimpses of Thompson that resembles early-2010s Westbrook. The four first-half fouls and seven turnovers didn’t help his cause, though.
  • Sequence of the Game #1 : Vassell swiped it cleanly away from Grant midway through the opening frame, and Branham found Wembanyama (as he should) for a transition dunk.
  • Sequence of the Game #2: After Wembanyama turned away a Henderson floater and McDermott found himself open for a wing three in transition.
  • Solo Effort of the Game: Sochan, demonstrating a firmer handle and willingness to absorb contact, did a one-man fast break late in the first for a soaring and-1.
  • A very brave Blazers fan, during a shooting game, proceeded to toss up a skyhook, a Rick Barry underhanded attempt, and finally wedged their last shot into the side of the rim... which is still way better than I would have done.
  • In a riveting opening quarter of action for San Antonio, back-to-back threes from Branham and Wembanyama (hopefully) portended towards a great shooting night. A week’s worth of highlight worthy plays ensued, allowing the Spurs to scoot out 24-4. Skylar Mays chucked up some of the worst-looking attempts. Portland finally got to double-digits nine minutes in and exited the frame down 14-38.
  • Wembanyama erased two Moses Brown (7’2”) shots at the start of the second. Portland mounted a 10-0 run with Henderson chipping in seven. San Antonio stayed stuck on 44 for an eternity with Vassell noticeably tossing up alarming amounts of open misses, but thankfully the Blazers entered the foul bonus halfway through. After a Blazers make, Jones found Wembanyama deep in the paint to draw yet another foul. Two buckets by Johnson salvaged a bad Spurs’ quarter and a 59-45 advantage.
  • Coming out of the break, Grant and Brogdon ran amok from behind the arc. Portland persistently threatened and a Brown alley-oop brought them within eight. Brogdon, in an unintended homage to Andre Miller, lured Sochan up in the air for his fourth foul and netted a floater. Vassell found more solid footing on the offensive attack. Mays almost threw a shot attempt over the backboard, and his next try was blocked by three Spurs. A Jones tip-follow put San Antonio up 87-74.
  • In the final period, while Wembanyama continued to carve up the Blazer frontline, Brogdon continued to pelt away from three. Sochan somehow slipped a pocket pass through three Blazers to Collins for a slam. A late shot-clock assist to Tre Jones and an alley-oop dunk by Wembanyama salted the game away.

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

The teams return to the Moda Center tomorrow night for a SEGABABA at 9:00 PM CDT.