The Portland Trail Blazers (30-9) began their journey around the Texas triangle with a match-up against the San Antonio Spurs (31-9) at the AT&T Center. The Blazers have previously won the last four meetings against the Spurs, a team that is the pinnacle of basketball success from future Hall-of-Famers, a equally terrific bench and one of the greatest coaching minds on the sideline.
Portland would go up as many as 12 points in the third quarter, until Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, sensing his team is playing without any urgency, is tossed. His grand plan to fire up his team worked, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews make clutch shots late to put San Antonio away 109-100. With the win, Portland becomes the third team in the NBA to reach 30 wins along with beating the Spurs four-straight times.
Much of the first half is what you would expect to see when two of the top teams in the West battle it out. Both mirror each other so well: moving without the ball, looking for the open shooter, making the extra pass, it was true basketball on that court. The Spurs were red-hot and Popovich even had to take an early timeout while up seven and shooting 60% from the floor. A three-pointer from Batum in transition and foul-line floater from Lillard cut the lead to two. Mo Williams completes a three-point play to end the quarter but Manu Ginobili drills a three to tie everything at 27, capping an 11-5 Spurs run.
The Blazer bench stumbled offensively no one’s surprise early but the starters regained control and held on, effectively matching every shot the Spurs made. Portland’s defense picks up as well as they close out on shooters and add some good rotation and Batum/Lopez pick and rolls and the Blazers are on a 17-6 run and take a 54-49 lead at the break.
As San Antonio went 7-20 from the field in the second quarter, the dry spell drifts into the second half as Portland goes up as many as eight. LaMarcus Aldridge had taken only two shots and the Blazers knew he was hungry for lunchmeat, so they fed him and Portland is now up 10. Popovich had seen enough and calls a timeout and barks at the refs so much, he’s swiftly ejected. Even his assistant coaches needed to hold Pop back from foaming at the mouth.
Of course this being Pop, his ejection was a way to get the Spurs and the AT&T Center fired up. The Spurs score seven quick points after all the hoopla. Portland’s shot isn’t falling; the Spurs go on a 7-0 run to cut the lead 73-70. Ginobili comes off the bench to connect a couple three-point field goals and a running layup to beat the buzzer grabs San Antonio a slim 78-77 lead, erasing any momentum built by Portland.
Portland was then staring at the Spurs’ 26-0 record after leading after three right in the face. Patty Mills drills his own three and questionable calls on the Blazers all but give San Antonio a comfortable cushion. Damian Lillard calms everyone down with a step-back three to bring Portland back within one. The Spurs’ swarming defense and foul calls against Portland made every shot that much tougher to get off. Slowly but surely, they regain some ground and take back the lead at 88-87. Matthews makes a corner three and it’s 95-91, but Tony Parker says “Excusez-moi!” and hits a step-back jumper. Aldridge then says “Hold on, I’m going to put you on a baguette,” and scores right in Tim Duncan’s face and secures a 97-93 lead with just under three minutes.
After a quick Portland timeout, Matthews hit another three! But crap, Marco Belinelli responds with one of his own. The Spurs had to learn the hard way that you can’t simply double-team Aldridge without leaving someone from beyond the arc open, and WES HITS AGAIN! Knowing they have to play the foul game, the Spurs send Williams to the line who calmly makes four free throws in the final 30 seconds. Ginobili’s desperation three is off the mark and Portland survives a gutsy win.
Who Was Hot
- LaMarcus Aldridge: His 23rd straight double-double and was the key to that fourth quarter rally who also helped get Matthews open for the open threes. He leads the Blazers with 26 points, 13 rebounds on 11-22 makes after taking only two shots the entire first half.
- Wesley Matthews: The Dark Knight strikes late and delivers the backbreaking threes to put the game away for good: 24 points, six rebounds and 6-7 from the three-point line. He’s on fire, he’s on fire he’s so HOT HOT HOT.
- Damian Lillard: His best shooting percentages are against these Spurs and after killing them in the first home game of the season, he sagged off a little while being hounded by Patty Mills all night. He has a decent 21-point, eight assist, five rebound outing.
- Three-point makes: San Antonio and Portland are 1 and 2 respectfully in the league in three-point makes. The Blazers only attempted six in the first half but give credit to both teams for limiting each other from distance for much of the match. Blazers go 8-16 while the Spurs are 8-20. Pretty even.
- Free throws: Blazers 19-20 from the line, Spurs 16-20 and that’s after the Spurs had only four team fouls at one point in the entire second half.
- Assists: Tied at 21
- Turnovers: 12 by the Spurs to 11 by the Blazers. Pretty much even again.
- Points in the paint: Tied at 38
- Fast break points: 16 for Portland to just three on the other end. Nice to see that, considering Portland isn’t a fast-breaking team.
- Portland outscores San Antonio 32-22 in the fourth quarter in what was an exciting and very entertaining game of basketball we’ve seen that could have gone either way.
Who Was NOT
- I for one don’t really dig the gray alternative jerseys worn by the Spurs. So much so, Ginobili mistook a ref for one of his own guys as he darts a pass straight out of bounds with 41 seconds left with San Antonio down 105-98. That’s a definite “Not Top 10” play on SportsCenter. Cue the wacky music.
- By the way, how come Portland would wear their black road uniforms and not the red alternatives? Everything is black and gray, give it some color and make us really stand out, especially on television.
Well that’s a great start! The Texas Triangle has only begun; Dallas tomorrow and then Houston followed by Oklahoma City. You know Portland will want revenge on the Mavs after Monta Ellis hit the game-winner the last time they met in Portland. Game has been switched to KGW, so plan accordingly!