The Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs didn't let down the national television audience Wednesday night, battling into the fourth quarter before LaMarcus Aldridge's new team pulled away down the stretch. Aldridge, who was booed by the Moda Center faithful each time he touched the basketball, led the Spurs with 23 points and 6 rebounds.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard (22 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds), CJ McCollum (21 points), Al-Farouq Aminu (11 points, 4 assists), Ed Davis (11 points, 6 rebounds) and the returning Gerald Henderson (12 points).
However, the Blazers may have lost Meyers Leonard, who separated his shoulder while battling Kawhi Leonard for a rebound. His status is undetermined.
Both teams looked somewhat evenly-matched through the first quarter. Aldridge wasted no time sinking his mid-range jumper, but McCollum and Leonard helped the Blazers bump ahead by 8 points, 18-10. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called a timeout, and the team regrouped. Afterward, San Antonio picked up their defense, forcing a few Blazer turnovers, and got into their comfort zone on offense. They finished the quarter on a 18-6 run to hold the lead.
End of First: San Antonio 28, Portland 24
The benches came in for both teams, and the veteran Spurs took control, grabbing an 8 point lead. As the starters returned, the lead reached double-digits. Danny Green hit a three-pointer, and the Blazers were called for a foul. Blazers coach Terry Stotts, clearly frustrated at the referees by that point, picked up a technical foul. Portland's starters returned, and the bread-and-butter combo of McCollum and Lillard quickly forced a patented Popovich "momentum stopper" timeout. And it succeeded, as the Spurs outscored Portland 8-2 out of the timeout, forcing Stotts to attempt the same maneuver. It merely stemmed the tide, and the Spurs enjoyed a comfortable halftime cushion.
Halftime: San Antonio 58, Portland 46
Lillard opened up the second half with two three-pointers, and the Blazers went on a 9-4 run to force a Popovich "momentum timeout". It failed miserably, and Al-Farouq Aminu hit two three-pointers to cut the Spurs' lead to 2. After Plumlee blocked an alley-oop at one end, he dunked over the Spurs at the other. Unfortunately, as the Blazers pulled into a tie, Meyers Leonard left the game due to injury. He was doing an effective job guarding Aldridge, and with his departure, the Spurs regained control.
End of Third: San Antonio 81, Portland 75
The Blazers' bench handled a nice stint at the start of the fourth quarter, keeping the deficit down to 5. However, as the Spurs starters returned, they executed the game plan to perfection. Their defense held off any serious Portland run, and they made their shots to stem any rising tide. The Blazers kept the game within single digits, but a serious run never materialized. The Blazers now head out on a tough road trip under .500 with a three-game losing streak.
The Blazers get a day off for travel, and get a return match with the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night. That's the first game of a four-games-in-six nights road trip, which includes visiting old friends like Aldridge again, Nicolas Batum, and James Harden.
Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, as we'll have ongoing coverage of tonight's game, including reaction from the media, and Dave Deckard's extended analysis later.