Both sides flaunted some early defensive intensity but it was offense that would win out during the first - threes from Al-Farouq Aminu and CJ McCollum helped put Portland on the board, while LaMarcus Aldridge proved to be as much a load Blazer fans remember from his nine seasons playing for their club, easily overpowering the overmatched Noah Vonleh and leading San Antonio's balanced attack with five points in the opening period. But Vonleh was no slouch, during in a respectable shift of his own four points, including a towering put-back dunk over Aldridge which closed an early 15-14 gap.
Portland would close the quarter on an 8-2 run, including six points from Damian Lillard to withstand the Spurs' initial onslaught and take a small lead into the second.
End of First: Portland 28, San Antonio 23
Allen Crabbe seems to be fully out of his recent shooting slump, knocking down his first two jumpers to keep the small Blazer lead intact as the seconds units for each squad battled to a virtual standstill.
Gregg Popovich went back to his starters just about four minutes into the quarter and immediately San Antonio rattled off an 8-0 run to reclaim the lead, capped by Danny Green's dunk off of an intercepted bad pass by Aminu to bring the Spurs ahead 38-35. McCollum would answer right back, finishing a pretty coast-to-coast drive in transition and knocking down another three to again restore the tie.
While Lillard struggled from the floor - starting only 2-10 from the field, he was effective getting to the foul line, bullying his way to the stripe six times where he was perfect. The last two of which would have kept the score tied heading into the locker room, but a bogus foul called at center court in the final seconds allowed Patty Mills, who appeared to trip over Lillard's leg as he was out of control, to earn free throws and tack on a small lead.
Halftime: Portland 54, San Antonio 56
The game wouldn't remain competitive for much longer, as San Antonio blitzed Portland early in the third to quickly extend its lead to ten on Aldridge's jumper, 15 on Tony Parker's pull-up jumper and finally 18 on Kawhi Leonard's angle three with just under three minutes remaining. Parker, who finished with 16 assists(!) was a maestro with the ball, fueling the engine that is the Spurs offense to reach the proverbial "next level." The Blazers weren't bad - San Antonio was just elite.
McCollum continued his strong night with nine more points, and even Chris Kaman - dusted off by Terry Stotts in the wake of Meyer's Leonard's injured shoulder - looked to be in good form with eight of his 12 points coming during the third, but the Spurs' 39 points put the Blazers in a deep hole that would be difficult to overcome.
End of Third: Portland 78 , San Antonio 95
Portland threatened several times throughout the fourth, not coming withing less than 14 until Mason Plumlee's free throw with about five minutes remaining. A solo steal leading to a dunk also from Plumlee cut the deficit to 13 just a minute later, followed by a Gerald Henderson three which closed it to 12.
Sensing some laziness from his squad - or perhaps just to get a chance to instill some discipline - Popovich called two timeouts within 30 seconds as Portland clawed as close as eight in the final minute, but the Spurs managed to re-group and keep the Blazers comfortably at bay.
The Blazers will complete the second half of a road back-to-back Friday when it travels to take on the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center - tip is set for 5 pm. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.
-- Ryan Rosback | email@example.com | Twitter