Team Records: Portland (29-9) at San Antonio (31-8)
Game Info: 5:30 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: San Antonio -6
Refs: Bill Kennedy, Mark Ayotte, Ben Taylor
The Skinny: The Blazers begin a brutal four games in five nights road trip against fellow Western conference playoff contenders with a matchup against the West-leading Spurs. The Blazers will look to win their fourth straight against the Spurs in an all-time series Portland leads by the slender margin of 75-74. The Spurs have won six in a row and are 16-5 at home so far this year.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers took an 11-point halftime lead over the Spurs and withstood several San Antonio runs before ultimately prevailing 115-105 in Portland’s home opener. Every single Blazers starter scored in double figures and Batum had a triple-double (clinched by a long 3-pointer at the buzzer) in the win.
Projected Spurs Lineup:
PF-Tim Duncan (Wake Forest-17th Season)-14.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.1 APG.
SF-Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State-3rd Season)-12 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.8 APG.
F-Jeff Ayres (Arizona State-4th Season)-3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, .8 APG
SG-Marco Belinelli (Italy-7th Season)-10.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.1 APG.
PG-Tony Parker (France-13th Season)-18.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 6.4 APG.
Player to Watch: Tony Parker (pictured at right)-He may not be a typical point guard, but Tony Parker has long been one of the most affective in the NBA. A supremely talented slasher, Parker has continued to improve his game, and his free throw shooting, once a weakness, is now a strength. Parker is a score-first, pass-second point guard, but he is usually quick enough that he doesn’t need to pass. He can run into trouble if forced to shoot jumpers, but he is usually smart enough to avoid those if possible. On defense, he is good when he’s engaged, but when he isn’t, he can be beaten on that end of the court.
Did You Know?: Did You Know?: In his seventeenth season with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich is the longest tenured head coach in any of the four major American sports.
Song of the Day: “Sympathique” by Pink Martini-In honor of French stars Batum and Parker, tonight’s song is perhaps Pink Martini’s best known and is performed in French. Enjoy:
San Antonio: Out-C Tiago Splitter (Shoulder), SG Danny Green (Finger), Questionable-PG Tony Parker (Shin)
Re-Evaluating the Spurs: One Unique Pop
Coach Gregg Popovich (more commonly known as “Pop”) is unlike any other coach in the NBA. Pop is caustic, with a sense of humor all his own but a genius that is unmatched certainly by any active NBA head coach. Poppovich may not be the most media friendly coach in the NBA but he certainly gets the most out of his times, year in and year out. This is perhaps best shown by the fact that nearly every player on a Spurs roster in a given year ends up playing the key role in at least one win for them. Such of this is the superb talent evaluation of their GM but a lot of it is their coaching. When Pop retires, perhaps when Tim Duncan himself does, it will end one of the most successful coaching runs in NBA history.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They hold the Spurs under 95 points. The Blazers will probably have to play their best defense of the season to win in San Antonio, a team which is very good on offense and pretty good on defense as well. If they can hold the Spurs under 95, that should be enough.
San Antonio wins if: They don’t let the Blazers go crazy from deep . The Spurs haven’t lost much this year but when they have its usually because their opponent makes a lot of 3s. If they can prevent Portland from doing so Friday, they should prevail.