The last time the Blazers were in San Antonio, they won one of the bigger shockers of the season — at the time — because it was the game after Joel Przybilla’s knee got lasered by the Death Star and little bits of sky were still falling all around us. But Bayless dropped 31 with Brandon Roy out, only eight players got in the game and the Blazers set the blueprint for how they were attain many surprising victories over the next month: shoot well enough to compensate for the inability to defend the interior and passing lanes.
Whether Roy plays tonight or not — and I hope he doesn’t simply based on the uncertainty — that blueprint remains the active battle plan. They almost caught a defensive break with the Tony Parker ankle sprain, but Parker is expected to play tonight so hopes of having limited penetration to deal with go right out the window, unless Parker plays on the sprain like it seems every point guard in the last two seasons has: like a Cinnabon on ice.
The Spurs offer a similar matchup problem for Portland to what Utah does, with a couple beneficial differences. The have comparable abilities to break down a defense with the trifecta of ball handling, passing and off-ball movement, but they score dramatically fewer points in the paint. That means that unlike against Utah, if the Blazers get a couple standout offensive games and work through their sets, they will actually have a shot to steal the win since they will not be beaten mercilessly in the middle.
Portland also has the athletic advantage that they didn’t have against Utah’s bevy of wings that backdoor you to death. Bayless has proven he can get by most anyone on San Antonio and there should be easy points to be had from Batum, Webster and Aldridge running down the wings.
You do have to worry about a couple rebounders, namely DeJuan Blair who is coming off a 20-point, 9-of-11 performance last night. I don’t think he qualifies for the leaderboard on basketball-reference.com, but if he did he would certainly be one of the best offensive rebounders in the lead with a 16.2 offensive rebounding percentage, perhaps the best. Possessions are always at a premium against the Spurs, and for Portland to be able to take advantage of their athletes they will have to secure the boards in single coverage. Think of it this way: any time you see a Portland player edging out on the wing readying himself for an outlet and someone like Blair or Tim Duncan secures the offensive rebound, think of that as a four-point swing.