Team Records: San Antonio (18-5) at Portland (9-12)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on TNT, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: San Antonio -7
Refs: Tony Brothers, John Gobble, JT Orr
The Skinny: After a winning a crazy ugly game on Monday against the hapless Raptors, Portland faces a far more difficult challenge this time out as they welcome the Spurs to the Rose Garden. The Spurs come in fresh off a thrilling loss last night in Utah as Mo Wiliams hit a buzzer beating 3 to give the Jazz the win. Even with the loss, the Spurs have still won 10 of their last 12.
Last Time They Met: It was an even game through three quarters but the Spurs pulled away in the fourth and when a Batum 3 missed late, the Spurs would escape Portland with a narrow win.
Projected Spurs Lineup:
PF-Tim Duncan (Wake Forest-16th Season) 17.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.6 APG.
SF-DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh-4th Season)-6.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.1 APG.
G-Gary Neal (Towson-3rd Season)-12.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.9 APG
SG-Danny Green (North Carolina-4th Season)-10.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.6 APG.
PG-Tony Parker (France-12th Season)-18.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 7.6 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 easily beaten on that end of the court.
Did You Know?: In his sixteen season with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich is the longest tenured head coach in any of the four major American sports.
Song of the Day: “Drift Away” by Mentor Williams-Many Blazer fans certainly hope the injuries to Batum and Wesley Matthews can drift away as soon as possible so this song seemed appropriate. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), Questionable-SF Nicolas Batum (Back), SG Wesley Matthews (Hip)
San Antonio: Out- SG Stephen Jackson (Finger), SF Kawhi Leonard (Quadriceps).
Re-Evaluating the Spurs: Depth from Random Places
How do the Spurs keep wining even with an aging core? The answer is twofold. First, they have perhaps the best coach currently in the NBA, and second, they have insane depth at all positions. The combination means that when one Spurs player goes out, another is ready to take their place and ready to follow the Spurs system to the letter. This was perhaps best seen last year when, despite missing all three of their core players, the Spurs played a strong, disciplined game in their late season road loss to Portland, far better than perhaps any other team could have done missing its three key cogs. The Blazers will need to be on their toes Thursday and know that literally anyone wearing a Spurs uniform can hurt them at any time.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit San Antonio’s 3-pointers. When the Spurs get rolling, they kick the ball out to open shooters who make 3 pointers. That can’t happen Thursday if Portland wants to come out with a win.
San Antonio wins if: They outrebound Portland. The Spurs are pretty much an above average rebounding team. Still, rebounds are often harbingers of what effort teams are bringing on a given night. If they can outwork Portland on the boards, they should be able to get back on track after the loss in Utah.