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San Antonio at Portland, Final Score: Spurs’ rally falls just short against Blazers, 128-134

A letdown loss after last night was far from unexpected, but the biggest takeaway from this game might be more injuries...

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a big win the night before, the Spurs entered the second game of a back-to-back miniseries against the Portland Trail Blazers minus Victor Wembanyama — and they would later lose Zach Collins, who was having a nice game, to an ankle injury in the third quarter — a letdown loss would have been far from an unexpected outcome. In somewhat of a mirror image of last night’s game, it was the Blazers who broke out to a 26-point lead (albeit not until the third quarter) before the Spurs fought all the way back to within five points late, but they ran out of time, and Portland held on to hand them a 128-134 loss.

Collins was leading the Spurs most of the night with 17 points on 8-10 shooting before he left the game, and Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell came alive during the comeback attempt, scoring 29 and 22 points, respectively. Malcom Brogdon and Jerami Grant both scored 27 points for the Blazers, followed by 25 from Jabari Walker and 22 from Scoot Henderson.

Observations

  • Gregg Popovich said after Tuesday’s game against the Jazz that Wemby would not play in both games in Portland to rest his gimpy ankle, and even though he looked perfectly fine in last night’s win and wanted to play today, Pop stuck to his word. It’s a bummer considering it felt like that was the first time his teammates really figured out how to use him, and we don’t get an immediate chance to see if it was a fluke or if real progress was being made in that regard.
  • The Spurs have been better on defense with Wemby at center if only because of his rim protection and he’s a deterrence, but all their weaknesses are the same with or without him, be it poor boxing out and rebounding, rotating, or biting on pump fakes. All were a problem both nights in Portland, but this time the Spurs didn’t have a 28-point cushion to protect themselves and instead found themselves down by 15 at the half (after a tied first quarter) in large part because Portland made 6 more threes and committed four fewer turnovers.
  • It felt odd at halftime that the Spurs were actually shooting 51% in the game, because it felt much worse after the second quarter. They can largely thanks to Collins and Jones, who combined to shot 11-14 in the half while the rest of the team hit just 12-31. Perhaps most notably, Vassell and Johnson had combined for just 13 points in the first half. The Spurs need Vassell in particular to get more consistent, especially in games Wemby misses.
  • It looked like the game was going to get away from the Spurs in third quarter as they got down by as much as 26, but behind an offensive explosion from Doug McDermott, who hit 5-6 threes, they got back within 10 heading into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, after zero turnovers in the third, the Spurs had a few costly ones in the back court in the fourth, and although they played hard and got within 5 with seven seconds left, they were unable to complete the comeback as Portland did just enough to hold on for the win.
  • Unfortunately, Collins had to leave the game in the third quarter after Jerami Grant landed on his leg under the basket. He took a while to get up but walked off on his own power before heading straight to the locker room. He was ruled out for the rest of the game, but hopefully he isn’t out long, if at all. With Charles Bassey out for the season and Pop saying Wemby will remain on a minutes restrictions and not playing on back-to-backs for a couple more weeks, that leaves the Spurs with only two undersized big men in Sandro Mamukelashvili and Dominick Barlow behind him. If Collins does miss extended time, they could possibly consider getting a medical hardship exemption to fill Bassey’s spot or sign someone they’d be comfortable playing in a pinch to the two-way spot that was just opened via the waiving of Charles Bediako.
  • The Spurs got another scare when Jones also hobbled back to the locker room late in the third quarter after twisting his ankle on Henderson. Fortunately, he returned in the fourth quarter. The Spurs would really really be in trouble if his misses extended time, and it would likely force them to address the point guard position even sooner than they wanted. (I hear the Wizards are open to trading his brother Tyus...)

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

The Spurs will return home for their final game of the year against Derrick White and the Boston Celtics on Sunday. Tip-off will be at 6:00 PM CT on Bally Sports.