Tonight in San Antonio, the Portland Trail Blazers (29-9) will open a challenging four game road trip against the red-hot San Antonio Spurs (31-8). This four games in five days stretch against Western Conference contenders will show us the true identity of the Blazers. The Spurs will look to increase their first place, Western Conference lead over the Trail Blazers and avenge an early season loss in Portland.
In their first matchup of the season, the Blazers beat the Spurs 115-105. It was only the third game of the season for both teams but Portland knew that the win was important. The win gave the Blazers their third straight against the Spurs and moved them to 13-5 over the last 18 games against San Antonio. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge played terrific with 25 points and 24 points respectively. However; it was Nicolas Batum’s last second triple-double that stole the spotlight. Batum heaved up a 26-foot prayer at the buzzer, with the win already in hand, to reach 11 points that night and earned(?) his third career triple-double. He later apologized for throwing up the shot and mentioned that he did not intend to disrespect the Spurs organization.
Tonight’s game should be electric. The Blazers know that they still have something to prove and the Spurs want to keep building on their six game win streak. Tim Duncan has been one of the best players in the NBA since entering the league in 1997. He is a four-time NBA champion (including three NBA Finals MVP awards) and he’s looking at add one more before the exits. San Antonio will make the playoffs. They will make a deep run. The Portland Trail Blazers will make the playoffs, but it is yet to be determined how far they can go. Winning the regular season series for the second straight year would be a great start for this young Blazers team.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- No injuries to report.
San Antonio Spurs:
- Danny Green (hand) will remain sidelined with a non-displace fracture in his left hand.
- Tiago Splitter (shoulder) will also be out.
Keys To The Game
Contain Tony Parker. Tony Parker is what makes the Spurs tick. He is their floor general. This season, he is averaging 18.1 points and 6.4 assists. Damian Lillard is coming off of a nice defensive effort against Kyrie Irving. Lillard was able to keep Irving in front of him and was even able to get a steal or two off of him. Guarding Tony Parker will be a difficult challenge, however in the first matchup, Parker was only 7-20 from the field. Historically, Parker has stuggled against the Trail Blazers. Since the 2010-2011 season, he is shooting 41.5 percent versus the Blazers which is his lowest mark against any opponent. If Lillard can stick to the defense he displayed a few nights ago, the Blazers will have a shot of winning in San Antonio.
Aldridge and Lillard. It’s almost a given that they are the keys to any Trail Blazers game plan. Tony Parker may struggle against the Blazers but Aldridge and Lillard shine against the Spurs. Aldridge, who returns to his home state once again, is averaging 23.3 points per game on 58.3 percent shooting in his last 12 games against the Spurs. Lillard, who has played four games against the Spurs, is averaging 27.3 points per game. That is Lillard’s highest average against any team. Lillard and Aldridge are the heart and soul of this team and they will be heavily relied upon during this difficult road trip.