In the first ever NBA game in Austin, TX, the San Antonio Spurs did not disappoint their neighbors to the north. It was a defense-optional game throughout, and while a skeleton version of the Portland Trail Blazers had a huge shooting night, the Spurs hung around with timely runs, the biggest being a 13-0 run late in the fourth quarter to secure the 129-127 win.
Four Spurs scored 20-plus points in this game, led by a season-high 25 from Keita Bates-Diop, 24 each from Keldon Johnson and Julian Champagnie, and 21 from Zach Collins. Kevin Knox led Portland with 24 points off the bench, and Drew Eubanks had a big game against his former team, recording 23 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks.
- Eubanks is legitimately the only starter for Portland I’ve even heard of. I’m sure other fans have said the same about the Spurs at times this season, but I’ve never even heard of the other four players (and I mean that with zero disrespect). Like the Spurs, Portland has entered full tank mode and shut down its main players for the season.
- Being the most recognizable starter for the Blazers (at least through the eyes of Spurs fans), Eubanks got out to a hot start and was all over the place early. He scored Portland’s first five points and swatted a couple of shots. Trenton Wafford posterized Collins and gave him a little stare and trash talk, but that woke the bear. Collins responded with a posterizing dunk after rebounding his own missed three, hit a Vinny (a.k.a. a toe-on-the-line three), then blocked Wafford back with a little revenge stare in return.
- In a mind-boggling stat, with three minutes left in the first quarter, the Spurs were up 30-29 despite the Trail Blazers hitting 14 of their first 16 shots. The Spurs had hit 50 percent of their own shot, but the reason for their unusual lead was they had already gotten to the line nine times, hitting eight, while the Blazers had yet to attempt one. Still, Portland remained hot and finished on an 8-0 run to end the quarter up 37-32.
- The play in the second quarter kind of escaped me because I was too busy listening to the broadcast. With The Little Geneal Avery Johnson filling in as second color commentator and former Spur and Longhorn TJ Ford, fittingly the alum of the evening, joining the broadcast, it was enjoyable all the way around. Ford is very engaging and knowledgeable, and Sean Elliott gave both him and Avery flack for their height, which caused Avery to joke that he would walk off the set (although Sean did have to admit he started wearing glasses at a much younger age than AJ). It was fun.
- What didn’t escape me was similar to their game in Sacramento last week, it was another terrific first half for Julian Champagnie. He had 19 points, 13 of which were scored in the second quarter as the Spurs surged out to a 69-61 halftime lead, while hitting 5-7 from three. In fact, he was the only Spur to hit a three in the first half, while the rest of the team went 0-13. Zach Collins finally hit one to open the second half.
- The Spurs had another bad third quarter, getting outscored by 10 and struggling with turnovers, but again, despite a monster shooting night from Portland, the Spurs used the hustle stats to stay in the game. They had a 10-point advantage from the free throw line, 23 more second chance points, 14 more points off turnovers, and 6 more fast break points. Down by nine midway through the fourth, they responded with a 13-0 run, including two straight threes from Bates-Diop to get them the lead back. Johnson later hit a beautiful reverse layup with 10 second left to seal the victory for their Austin fans.
- It was a huge block party for the Trail Blazers, who had a whopping 14 on the night, but again timeliness was everything for the Spurs, and Collins had a couple of big ones late in the game to help the Spurs maintain the lead.
- Before any fans go wild in comments about the Spurs moving to Austin, it’s not happening. Even if playing a game or two there every season becomes an annual tradition (which would require approval from the city of San Antonio and Bexar County), they’re staying in San Antonio. RC Buford assured the media of that before the game, and they wouldn’t have just finished a $500 million practice facility in La Cantera if they were going to leave. Does anyone really think they would expect their players to commute 85 miles in horrific traffic every day just to practice?
For the Trail Blazers fans’ perspective, visit Blazers Edge.
The Spurs will be back in Austin on Saturday for their penultimate game of the season against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Tip-off will be at 3:00 PM CT on Bally Sports SW-SA.