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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers

Spurs look to build on a solid performance in second game of a back to back.

San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers are playing in a rare back-to-back series. San Antonio took the first game 118-105 on the back of a 30-point performance from Victor Wembanyama. Before the trip to Portland, Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich, told reporters that Wembanyama would not play both games of the back-to-back. Wembanyama looked good in his 24-minutes, but due to a nagging ankle injury, could sit out Friday’s game in Portland.

San Antonio started Thusday’s game on a tear, but slowly let Portland creep back in over the course of the game. The Trail Blazers will look to ride that momentum into Friday night, while the Spurs try to build a winning streak in the second game of the back to back.

San Antonio Spurs (5-25) at Portland Trail Blazers (8-22)

December 29, 2023 | 9:00 PM CT

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Does not need to report injuries until 1 p.m. CT.

Blazers Injuries: Does not need to report injuries until 1 p.m. CT.

What to watch for

Offensive rebounding

San Antonio allowed the Trail Blazers to grab 22 offensive rebounds on Thursday night. Moses Brown and Ibou Badji crushed the Spurs on the glass, grabbing 10 combined offensive boards. If the Spurs are indeed without Wembanyama for Friday’s game, they can’t afford to give the Blazers too many second-chance looks. It’ll take a gang-rebounding approach to win the battle on the glass.

Slowing down the veterans

The Spurs struggled to contain the veteran pair of Jerami Grant and Malcolm Brogdon in Thursday’s contest, as the veterans both scored 29 points. Brogdon lit San Antonio up from deep, knocking down six of his eight attempts from range. Grant bullied the Spurs smaller defenders, doing most of his work inside and at the free throw line.

The Blazers are missing a good chunk of their scoring punch right now. The veterans are their most effective scorers left. If San Antonio wants a similar result to Thursday’s contest, they’ll need to slow them down.

Playing small?

Popovich went deep into his bag of tricks on Thursday night. With Wembanyama on a minutes restriction and Zach Collins in foul trouble, he played a small-ball lineup that included Tre Jones, Malaki Branham, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan. If Wembanyama doesn’t play on Friday, will the Spurs go small again? In the past they’ve played Sandro Mamukelashvili or Dominick Barlow at back-up center without Wembanyama, but it seems that Popovich is shaking up the rotation right now.

The small-ball lineup struggled to rebound and defend, without adding an improved offensive punch. It will be interesting to see if Pop goes back to it in game two of the back to back.