USA TODAY Sports
In a closely-fought game televised on TNT, the Portland Trail Blazers held off the San Antonio Spurs, erasing memories a few bad losses.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, scored a career-high 29 points, with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks, a sore Nicolas Batum had 11 points and 8 assists, while JJ Hickson brought 12 points and 12 boards. Luke Babbitt's 12 points off the bench were huge.
Wesley Matthews missed his second straight game.
First Half: The teams played to a standstill. The largest lead for either team was 7 (by Portland late in the second quarter). In the second quarter, Babbitt, already having scored 8 points, left with an unknown injury. As the clock ran down to halftime, Lillard nailed a long step-back two to give the Blazers a 4 point lead as they left for the locker room.
The TNT halftime crew spend a good portion of the half discussing their love of one Damian Lillard.
It's nice that Lillard is having a good game on national tv
Second half: More of the same from the first half. The Blazers maintained a small lead through most of the third, which featured lots of Lillard, plus Babbitt's return. He quickly nailed two more shots to move into double figures. When Sasha Pavlovic hit a three, the Blazer lead reached 11 with one minute left in the third. San Antonio made a late run to cut it to 7 at the horn.
As the fourth quarter opened, Lillard left Patty Mills on his heels while nailing a three pointer to open the lead up. He headed to the bench for a breather afterward. The Blazers pushed the lead to 12 briefly, then played keepaway from the Spurs for the next several minutes. They still led by 8 with Lillard returned, and the Spurs amped up the pressure on him. As the Blazers struggled to get any offense started, the Spurs slowly closed to within 6 with six minutes left.
San Antonio blocked Hickson to start the second half of the fourth quarter, and Tony Parker closed the gap further. The Blazers made all kinds of small mistakes down the stretch (and Aldridge struggled against flopping and offensive foul calls), but still held a 6 point lead with 3 minutes left. That was short-lived as the Spurs immediately hit a three out of a timeout. Lillard nailed a layup at the other end, but Tim Duncan got it right back. The Blazers still led by 3 with 90 seconds left. A Hickson offensive rebound helped the Blazers run some time off the clock, and Lillard passed to Batum, who swished a HUGE three pointer with 1:08 left, to push the lead to 6.
Out of the timeout, San Antonio gave it to Danny Green, who got summarily stuffed by Batum. The Blazers turned it over, but the Spurs couldn't take advantage, as Batum's free throws finished them off. A big win for the Blazers on national television.
Stay tuned for Dave's analysis and Ben's Media Row Report. The next game is Sunday night, at home against the New Orleans Hornets. -- Tim