Team Records: Portland (7-3) at San Antonio (7-4)
Game Info: 5:30 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 the Game.
Vegas Line: SA -1.5.
Refs: Monty McCutchen, Kevin Cutler, Eric Lewis.
The Skinny: The Blazers look to rebound from their first home loss of the year as they open a six game road trip with what is likely to be the toughest game of the bunch. The Spurs are undefeated at home and winless on the road this season. The Spurs are also without star Manu Ginobili, who is out for several weeks with a fractured metacarpal.
Last season: The Blazers won the season series 3-1, becoming the only team in the NBA to win a season series vs. the Spurs last year. The Blazers have won eight of the last nine vs. the Spurs overall. The teams have split the all-time series 71-71.
Projected Spurs Lineup:
PF-Tim Duncan (Wake Forest-15th Season) 12.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.1 APG.
SF-Richard Jefferson (Arizona-11th Season)-13.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.5 APG.
C-DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh-3rd Season)-10.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1 APG
SG-Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State-Rookie)-7.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, .4 APG.
PG-Tony Parker (France-11th Season)-15.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 7.3 APG.
Player to Watch-Kawhi Leonard (Pictured at right)-On draft night 2011, the Spurs appeared to grab yet another draft day steal by nabbing a lottery-level talent in Leonard at little cost (George Hill). Leonard is primarily a defensive player, with great length and superior rebounding skills. On offense, Leonard is a decent finisher but still struggles to hit jump shots. If he can develop that jumper, and the past history of successfully developing players in San Antonio suggests he is more likely to than not, he will indeed be yet another diamond in the rough for the Spurs.
Did You Know?: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is in his 16th season in San Antonio, making him the longest tenured coach in any of the four major US sports (MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL).
Portland: Out-C Greg Oden (Knee).
San Antonio: Out-PG TJ Ford (Hamstring), SG Manu Ginobili (Fractured Metacarpal)
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 are third in points per game, and have been especially deadly from deep, ranking fourth from beyond the arc so far this season. On defense, the Spurs manage to play tight defense without fouling, allowing opponents to shoot only 20 FT attempts per game. They are not, however, the same feared bunch they once were on defense, and can be beaten if you are able to take and make open shots. Although not as good as they once were, the Spurs are nonetheless a tough team and you need to play disciplined basketball to beat them.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit San Antonio’s 3-pointers. What happened against the Magic might have been a slight fluke in terms of how many 3 pointers they made but one part of it was not a fluke. The Magic were getting open 3s and making them count. Portland can’t let the Spurs do that to them if they want to start the road trip with a win.
San Antonio wins if: They play their usual game at home. The Spurs are nearly unbeatable at home, and have been for years. If they are on as they usually are at home, it will be hard for Portland, or anyone else, to walk out with a win.