Sports fans in Portland had a busy Saturday night as not only were they cheering the 1st seed Timbers on the road in Seattle in the MLS Western Conference semis, the Trail Blazers (2-1) officially started play in the newly re-named Moda Center to battle the San Antonio Spurs (2-1). Both teams were on the final game of a back-to-back, the Spurs beating the Lakers in Los Angeles and Portland securing the win in Denver.
While the Blazers nearly built a 30-point lead against the Nuggets, it was a battle tonight against the dangerously smart and sly Spurs as both teams traded baskets and responding to every run. The biggest lead the Blazers could get was 14 before San Antonio fought back with timely three-point shots. Portland managed to stay calm and collected and with big contributions from the starters (along with a surprise triple-double from Nic Batum) and the Blazers pulled away to a 115-105 victory
We weren’t sure before the game if Tim Duncan would suit up with chest problems but he played and right away the Spurs wanted to get the 37-year-old going. Robin Lopez constantly gave him plenty of room to nail his trademark off-the-glass corner jump shots but the Blazers had their response: LaMarcus Aldridge. He would find himself open on the baseline on multiple occasions during a high-tempo game but not a lot of production from the guards. Aldridge leads a 10-1 run and Portland is up 21-19 after one.
The Blazers had to go to their bench early to keep the starters fresh and it was an opportunity for the Spurs to gain some momentum behind Manu G and Marco B to get the guards more involved. Mo Williams came out and hit his first few attempts but the Blazers weren’t helping themselves by turning the ball over. Damian Lillard, who was more focused to getting everyone else engaged with getting his teammates open shots, hits his first bucket with 3:30 left and then bam – four straight field goals and Portland takes a 50-39 halftime lead.
Duncan’s shot disappeared in the first half fell flat and right away San Antonio kept going to him and Portland responded with more makes from Aldridge. A three from Wesley Matthews extends the lead to double digits but you knew the Spurs weren’t going to go away. Ginobili fired some quick baskets and suddenly it’s a four-point window again.
Right as the Blazers seem to be going on cruise control with a 14-point cushion, guess what – Manu Ginobili or Marco Belinelli would race back and keep biting at the Blazers’ heels. With the game too close for comfort in the last minute, Lillard attempts a fading corner three but it clanks off the front and into the hands of Matthews who grabs the offensive board, drives inside and dunks with two-hands. After a timeout from San Antonio, Belinelli wastes no time and drills his third three-pointer to keep the crowd sweating but it’s not enough. San Antonio all but end up having to send Lillard to the free throw line and Portland win at home for the first time since March.
Who Was Hot
- LaMarcus Aldridge: Another stellar performance that continues his hot shooting streak. He finishes with 24 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST, 2 BLK on 11-17 shooting and looks so calm in crunch time. He got most of his points being defended by Tiago Splitter but was double-teamed late and was more attentive on rebounding.
- Damian Lillard: He keeps coming up big against whatever point guards the league is throwing his way: Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Ty Lawson and tonight, Tony Parker. He didn’t score his first field goal till the second quarter, electing to get Aldridge involved but caught fire as the game went on. Game high 25 PTS, 7 REB, 7 AST, 8-8 free throws in crunch time.
- Wesley Matthews: Kept nailing important trés and the slam-dunk to put the Blazers up for good. He had 20 PTS, 3 REB, and 2 AST on 8-13 field goals.
- Nic Batum: Needed the final buzzer to record his first triple-double of the year. He was on his way to be just about short with nine points and casually throws up the ball at the final horn to hit nothing but net when the game was all but decided, much to the annoyance of the Spurs players. He guarded Parker successfully and was super active all night: 11 PTS, 12 REB, and 11 AST.
- Robin Lopez: Finally had a decent game where he showed why he was brought to Rip City and that was to be a rim-protector. Lopez had 12 PTS, 6 REB, and 2 BLK including a critical swat on Duncan that forced a Spurs turnover.
- Mo Williams: Only real bench player that had a decent game, they were simply outplayed by the Spurs reserves but it’s nice to see some actual offensive production from last year. Williams played 23 minutes and had 13 PTS, 2 AST on 6-9 shooting.
- Blazers got to the foul line and made it count when the game was too close for comfort: 17-19 to Spurs’ 5-8.
- Blazers 29 – Spurs 24 assists
- Blazers 7 – Spurs 2 on blocked shots
- Blazers only allow 2 fast break points (!!!)
- Tim Duncan had 24 PTS, 7 REB on 12-23 shooting but he only really did any damage at the start of the first and second half. The rest of the shots were really flat and short, many of those would have normally gone in considering he sat out last night.
- Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli would not go away, making some very difficult baskets and tried their hardest to keep the chase. Belinelli had 19 PTS (3-3 3PT), Ginobili 11 PTS.
- Portland is now 13-5 in last 18 matchups against San Antonio, no other team in the league comes close.
Who Was Cold
- Remember Danny Green during the NBA Finals last year and how many three’s he hit, breaking records and making the league pay attention? He was such a non-factor tonight; he played 17 worthless minutes and had one block and a foul.
- I’m a fan of Kawhi Leonard and his quiet-yet-tough attitude and determination but he too wasn’t getting anything done: 9 PTS, 1 REB and 1 AST.
- Portland should be thankful those 16 turnovers only lead to 12 Spurs points. On the other hand, San Antonio gave it away 12 times that turned into 19 points for us.
Highlight of the Night
Batum’s lob at first looked like it had zero chance of going in, but the L-Train was on time as always:
Actors Carrie Brownstein and Fred Arminsen of the television show Portlandia were in attendance. Owner Paul Allen is said to make a cameo in an upcoming episode. Aldridge appears in a sketch at the Women & Women First bookstore:
Quote of the Night
“He was really well loved here in Pittsburgh.” – Mike Rice, on the topic of former Blazer Patty Mills, but hey, both cities are practically the same…right?
Your Portland Trail Blazers are currently undefeated at the Moda Center. They will likely take tomorrow off to rest up before facing another big test on Tuesday when Dwight Howard, James Harden and the Houston Rockets come to town.