No. 3: If you can’t win the bench battle … at least keep it close
Watching the San Antonio Spurs is a lot like watching an old-school Scooby-Doo episode. In the same way that you just knew Fred and his gang would solve the mystery by episode’s end, most Spurs games play out under the same predictability.
The plot normally runs like this: the Spurs’ starters dig themselves in a first quarter hole before the second unit — normally Patty Mills, Jakob Poeltl, Rudy Gay, and Devin Vassell — lead the charge in turning that deficit into an advantage by the end of their shift. It’s like clockwork.
Take a look at the Spurs’ on-off numbers year-after-year. There’s a reason why those bench players are always atop the lists. They have excellent chemistry. And that could pose quite the test for a Portland Trail Blazers team in the middle of a roster flux, with two All-Star caliber players out of the lineup.
Interestingly enough, Portland boasts a top-10 scoring offense in 2020-21, even higher than San Antonio’s. But on a points per minute basis, both of them are about the same, the Blazers (2.09) and the Spurs (2.03) upon that upper echelon.
It’s too early into the season to call it a trend, but the Portland Trail Blazers are 5-2 when they win the bench battle, and are 3-3 when they don’t.
They’ve got two players capable of getting 20+ on any given night in Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr., and players capable of matching Poeltl’s infectious energy in Harry Giles III. With how shorthanded they are, the Blazers are going to need every bit of it.