The Portland Trail Blazers beat the San Antonio Spurs 115-105 in their home-opener at the Moda Center. The energy was palpable in the 4th quarter, when the Spurs narrowed the Blazer lead to four, but the Blazers were able to hold on and advance their record to 2-1. There was no solitary hero for Portland tonight. They played a balanced game with important contributions coming from nearly every player.
LaMarcus Aldridge shot 11-17 from the field, scoring 24 points. More often than not, he was defended by Tiago Splitter, who was unable to contest Aldridge’s familiar jumpers. It wasn’t until Aldridge drew the double team that he eased up on scoring. At this point he switched his focus to interior passing, where he made Robin Lopez the centerpiece late in the game. He remained active on the boards all night, finishing with 7 rebounds.
Damian Lillard did not attempt a shot until the 7:45 mark in the 2nd quarter, instead focusing on getting LaMarcus Aldridge going. This did not stop Lillard from scoring 12 of his 25 points before halftime. He was firing on all cylinders, playing aggressive defense on Tony Parker and punishing the Spurs on the offensive end as well. Unsurprisingly, he led the Blazers in scoring.
Nicolas Batum reached his first triple-double of the season with 11 points, 11 assists, and 12 rebounds. He almost didn’t make it, but a deep buzzer beater fell for him as the game ended. Necessary? No. Amusing? Very. His performance would have been no less impressive had he finished with 8 points, but the crowd wasn’t complaining. He played point forward much of the night, showing that his improved facilitation last season was no fluke.
Wesley Matthews made his usual flurry of 3-pointers, but will be remembered tonight for sealing the game with a rare slashing dunk to extend the Blazer lead when it counted. He was the third Blazer to finish the game with 20 or more points. His performance was efficient, lethal, and energetic.
Robin Lopez played considerably better than he had in previous outings. He fought for tap-backs, dove for loose balls, and wrestled with Tim Duncan all night. This worked very well in the paint, but Duncan was still able to lead the Spurs with 24 points because of the cushion Lopez allowed at the elbow. Lopez was even present on offense, dunking emphatically on multiple possessions and scoring with the help of LaMarcus Aldridge in the 4th quarter.
Mo Williams’ streaky shooting worked in Portland’s favor tonight, keeping the Blazers in the lead when the Spurs made a strong 3rd quarter push. I would prefer that he scan for open teammates before launching 18 footers, but it’s hard to complain when the shots drop. His hot hand off the bench was pivotal in checking San Antonio’s momentum.
It’s clear that playoff potential lives in Portland. If the Blazers can keep playing team basketball at this level the wins will pile up for Rip City.