November 9, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21, left) argues with referee Ed Malloy (14, right) during the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. The Spurs defeated the Kings 97-86. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (2-3) vs. San Antonio Spurs (5-1)

The San Antonio Spurs have become something of a yearly punchline, in the exact opposite way that the Charlotte Bobcats are a yearly punchline. The joke goes, as far as the Spurs are concerned, that regardless of what San Antonio does, no matter who they add or who they lose, the pundits will forget about them in favor of the new hotness, and by the end of the season they will be right there with the league’s absolute best.

This season the ageless team has started 5-1. They look good. They are good. Even if they lose tonight or some other nights down the road, they are still probably the best team in the west. In fact, I wouldn’t be that surprised if they represented the west in the Finals.

The Blazers will have their hands full.

Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C J.J. Hickson

Spurs Starting 5: PG Patty Mills, SG Danny Green, SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Tim Duncan, C Boris Diaw

What to Watch For

  • Can Portland take advantage of the fact Tony Parker is out of the lineup? Damian Lillard has run the proverbial gauntlet in his first two weeks as a pro. Tonight he gets a night off, of sorts, with Patty Mills taking the place of the injured French All-Star.
  • If possible can Portland put this game away early? Now I think the Blazers will probably lose because from top to bottom San Antonio is a superior team. That being said, Portland plays the Spurs well at home. If the Blazers can jump out and get a big lead, there’s always a chance Gregg Popovich shuts the whole thing down early in the second half. The Spurs are old. They played last night. Their old guys need all the time off they can get.
  • Can Portland keep it close? This is basically the opposite of the last thing to watch for. If the Blazers don’t jump out early, they’ll put themselves in the best possible place to get a win if they don’t let the Spurs get too far ahead. Unlike the Clippers, San Antonio won’t let Portland back in if they get a huge lead.

@mikeacker | @ripcityproject | [email protected]

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