Team Records: San Antonio (24-9) at Portland (17-16)
Game Info: 7 p.m. – TV on CSNNW/NBATV, radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -4.5
Refs: Eddie F. Rush, Steve Anderson, David Jones
The Skinny: The Blazers look to head into the All-Star break on the positive night after last night’s debacle in LA. Unfortunately, they could hardly choose a hotter opponent to face as they attempt to do so. The Spurs have won 11 straight, earning the last two wins in a dramatic fashion. However, the Spurs will be without the services of both Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter, both injured in Saturday’s crazy overtime win over the Clippers.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers hung in there through three quarters, but it all fell apart in the fourth. The Spurs ran away with it late and walked off with the easy win.
Projected Spurs Lineup:
PF: Tim Duncan (Wake Forest, 15th season) – 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.7 APG
SF: Richard Jefferson (Arizona, 11th season) – 9.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 APG
C: DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh, 3rd season) – 9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.1 APG
SG: Danny Green (North Carolina, 3rd season) – 7.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.5 APG
PG: Tony Parker (France, 11th season) – 19.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 7.8 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. Without Ginobili playing at the Rose Garden on Tuesday night, Parker will need to have a good game for the Spurs to prevail.
Song of the Day: “The Morning After” by Maureen McGovern – Methinks many Blazer fans feel a bit like a prizefighter after taking too many head shots – first Roy, then Oden, now what? Well, just remember folks, tomorrow will be a better day. Or at least we can hope so:
Did You Know?: The Spurs have won the first seven of their annual “rodeo road trip,” the most they have ever won in a single such road trip.
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knees)
San Antonio: Out – PG TJ Ford (hamstring), SG Manu Ginobili (oblique), PF Tiago Splitter (calf)
Re-Evaluating the Spurs: Depth from Random Places
How do the Spurs keep wining even as their aging core keeps suffering injury after injury? 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 Tuesday 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 Tuesday if Portland wants to come out with a win.
San Antonio wins if: They outrebound Portland. The Spurs are only an average rebounding team, currently ranked 18th in the NBA. 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 make it eight of eight on their rodeo road trip.