Team Records: San Antonio (17-7) at Portland (18-6)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -5.5
Refs: Zach Zarba, Karl Lane, Eric Lewis
The Skinny: The Blazers return home after a five-game road trip to take on the defending champion Spurs at home. The Spurs are coming off a win over the Nuggets Saturday night in Denver and have been struggling as of late. San Antonio has gone only 4-3 in their last seven games, including losses to the lowly Lakers, Jazz and Nets.
Last Season: The two teams split the season series 2-2 but the Spurs got the last laugh in the playoffs as they eliminated Portland in the second round in 5 games.
Projected Spurs Lineup (Best guess given that the Spurs usually rest people the second night of a back to back):
PF-Tim Duncan (Wake Forest-18th Season)-14.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3 APG.
SF-Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State-4th Season)-14.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.3 APG.
C-Boris Diaw (France-12th Season)-8.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.3 APG
SG-Danny Green (North Carolina-6th Season)-11.9 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.7 APG.
PG-Cory Joseph (Texas-4th Season)-9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.6 APG.
Player to Watch: Kawhi Leonard (pictured at right)-Such is the success rate that the Spurs have in the NBA draft that when they moved up to pick Kawhi a few years back, everyone assumed that the Spurs knew exactly what they were doing. They were right as Kawhi has fast become an integral part of San Antonio’s success. Kawhi can already shoot, defend and rebound at an all-star level and he is but scratching the surface of his talent. With his freakishly large hands, there is no telling how good he could eventually get. Yet, you won’t hear this player toot their own horn as Kawhi is notoriously “quiet as a mime”, which is exactly what the Spurs want him to be, letting his play do all the talking.
Did You Know?: The Spurs and Blazers have been evenly matched for years, with the all-time series tied at 78 wins each
Song of the Day: “I Believe I Can Fly” by R Kelly-One of the top songs the year Tim Duncan was drafted, it was initially released as part of the movie “Space Jam”. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McCollum (Finger)
San Antonio: Out-PG Patty Mills (Shoulder), Questionable-PG Tony Parker (Hamstring)
San Antonio’s Game:
Everything the Spurs do, either on or off the court, seems to be designed to get the most out of the talent they have. Year in and year out, coach Popovich has his team coached up and ready to go. On offense, they constantly rotate the ball to open shooters, either resulting in a good jump shot or a drive to the basket. The Spurs have one of the best offenses in the league, and are especially deadly from deep, ranking among the league leaders. On defense, the Spurs manage to play tight defense without fouling, allowing opponents to shoot very few FT attempts per game. Woe be to the foe that thinks they can find an edge versus the Spurs. It may real for a moment or two but there is no team better at adjusting and beating you that the Spurs, which was a key factor behind their run to the NBA title last season. The Spurs are indeed the franchise everyone else should measure themselves against.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They win the the three point battle. The Spurs and Blazers both love to shoot three pointers. If the Blazers can make more than the Spurs from deep, they will win.
San Antonio wins if: They make someone other than LMA/Lillard beat them. The Spurs are the best in the league at making you beat them without your primary weapons at full effectiveness. If the Spurs can limit either or both of Portland’s 1-2 punch they certainly stand a strong chance of winning.