Game 48 Preview: Spurs vs. Trail Blazers

Game Time:  7:00 p.m.  TV:  CSNNW

Hornets, Mavericks, Clippers, Magic, Knicks, Celtics, Hornets

That's the list--the ENTIRE list--of teams the 40-7 San Antonio Spurs have lost to this season.   Before we even roll initiative the Blazers have to make a saving throw versus Awesome.  And they need a 20.

On the surface the Spurs don't look all that much different than in days of yore.  Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan form the Big Three.  Their minutes are lower than they used to be but each is still producing.  Parker averages 17.5 points and 7 assists, Ginobili 19 and 5, Duncan 13.5 and 9.5 (in just over 29 minutes per game).  They still play a ton of bench players.  The difference this year is that those bench players are far more effective than any unit the Spurs have had in recent memory.  Richard Jefferson is shooting 47.5% from the field.  Point guard George Hill shoots 45.5% and scores 11 points in 28 minutes.  Forward DeJuan Blair is an offensive rebounding machine.  Center Matt Bonner is over 50% from the arc.  It's not like you'd jump on any of these guys for your fantasy league, but San Antonio has each playing to their strengths and meshing, particularly on the offensive end.  The result is a team that's 5th in shooting percentage, 3rd in three-point percentage, and 4th in effective field goal percentage.  Only Houston, Denver, Phoenix, and New York average more than the Spurs.  Only Denver and the Lakers edge them in offensive efficiency.  Your San Antonio Spurs:  an offensive juggernaut.  Who woulda thunk it?

On the defensive end the Spurs tend towards the mediocre...the high side in some areas, below in others.  They tend to allow fast break points and three-pointers.  Their guard defense is iffy and their big men tend to be solid rather than athletic.   On the other hand they defend the paint fairly well and enjoy pushing you to take jumpers.  Their defensive rebounding is good enough to make you regret it.  The Spurs never, ever, ever foul get called for fouls, which makes up for some of their sins in allowing too many opportunity points to the opposition.  Add it all up and you have a team that still ranks 7th in defensive efficiency...not up to their once-lofty standards but still plenty good enough to make their offense tell.

A first step to the Blazers having a chance tonight would be getting back on "D".  San Antonio likes fastbreak points.  Don't let them run loose and you pry open a small crack in the armor.  Containing Tony Parker is always a big deal for the Blazers.  When he scores the Blazers lose.  The prospects are better with this year's Portland defenders than they used to be.  Portland needs big games from Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez in order to beat good teams.  Their energy, slicing, and bombing free up LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller to do their thing.  Portland's entire bench needs to show well, as the Spurs reserves surely will.  Even if the starters come out with fire and purpose they can't build a big enough margin to weather yet another 3-20 night from their replacements.  Also, for Pete's sake, hit an open three!

There's no way to predict Portland winning this game while keeping a straight face.  But this should be a night during which the rested Blazers can play hard.  When Portland plays hard, good things happen.

See the chat we had with Pounding The Rock right below this and head on over there to see the conversation from the other side.

Congrats to TallTimber for winning January's Jersey Contest.  The first form of February can be found here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

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