The Portland Trail Blazers look to win their 13th straight home-opener tonight by defeating the San Antonio Spurs. This is not only their toughest matchup of the 2013-2014 season thus far, it is their toughest home-opener in the past five years. Sometimes you have to take history with a grain of salt. The Rose Garden is one of the toughest places to get a win on the road, but there is a story behind every streak; winning or losing.
- October 27th, 2009: The Trail Blazers defeat the Houston Rockets 96-87 in the Rockets’ first season without leading scorer Yao Ming.
- October 26th, 2010: The Trail Blazers defeat the Phoenix Suns 106-92 in the Suns’ first season without leading scorer Amar’e Stoudemire.
- December 26th, 2011: The Trail Blazers defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 107-103 in a season where the Sixers have no standout stars.
- October 31st, 2012: The Trail Blazers defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 116-106 while the Lakers rebel against each other before booting head coach Mike Brown.
The biggest advantage the Trail Blazers can hope to glean against the Spurs, as they aim for their 13th straight home-opener win, rests on the availability of Tim Duncan. Duncan missed yesterday’s game against the Lakers with a minor chest injury, and may still be sidelined as the Spurs travel to the Rose City. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been known to rest his stars any time there is a health risk, so Duncan (37) is unlikely to take the court.
Keys to the game:
- LaMarcus Aldridge – Aldridge is not messing around. He has totaled 53 points in the last two games and has been noticeably more aggressive than in seasons past. If Duncan does indeed miss the contest, there is not a single Spur that can defend Aldridge without creating a mismatch in his favor. Expect a big night from the big man, whose bullish new intensity will open up opportunities for more than just himself.
- 3-point shooting – Both teams have prolific specialists in this regard. Danny Green and Matt Bonner are more efficient versions of Wesley Matthews and Dorell Wright. Whichever team heats up from beyond the arc will probably win the game, as the Blazers and the Spurs both have the tendency to live and die by the three. Fortunately, Portland excels at perimeter defense.
- Tony Parker – The chronically undervalued point guard is one of the best in the NBA. He will spend his evening systematically picking apart Damian Lillard’s defense and that of the Blazers as a whole. Portland must find a way to keep him from scoring in the paint that does not involve leaving the corners unprotected. Parker presents the largest threat to the Blazers’ potential 2-1 record.
- Bench utility – The shallow rotation that Terry Stotts has run with may indicate a lack of trust in the Blazers’ deep roster. Will Barton, Allen Crabbe, Victor Claver, and Meyers Leonard have all played less than a minute and a half of the 2013-2014 season, now two games in. In order to keep his players fresh, Stotts may have to rely on them in this 2nd half of a back-to-back. Popovich will be digging deeper as well.
My projection: Spurs 102, Blazers 98
The game will air at 7:00 p.m. PST on KGW.