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Portland Trail Blazers vs. San Antonio Spurs Preview

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The Blazers look for an elusive signature win against the Spurs.

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (20-18) vs. San Antonio Spurs (27-13)

Sunday, January 7th - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (out), Tony Parker (out), Rudy Gay (out), Danny Green (doubtful)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA TV
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Pounding the Rock

Portland looks to build on a rare blowout win, which came Friday night as they dispatched the Atlanta Hawks 110-89, against the visiting San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs also had an easy win on Friday, handling the Phoenix Suns 103-89.

This will be the second meeting between the two clubs this season. The first game, also at the Moda Center, resulted in a 93-91 loss for the Blazers. It was perhaps one of the best outings of the year for the Blazers—still, they couldn’t overcome the Spurs. The Blazers didn’t have to face Kawhi Leonard last time, and, fortunately, they won’t have to this time either: Leonard will miss the game due to a left shoulder strain.

What to watch for

  • Defense. The Spurs hold opponents to 101.3 points per 100 possessions, second best in the league. The Blazers are fifth at 102.5 points. Last time out neither team scored 100 points; if this game is close, expect it to be a lower-scoring affair.
  • Can Portland’s bench hang with San Antonio’s? The Spurs’ bench scores 40.1 points per game. The Blazers’ bench averages 28.6 points. Portland’s bench showed some life while scoring 40 against the Hawks, but they shouldn’t expect it to be that easy against the Spurs. If Portland wants a shot at winning against San Antonio, they’ll need to find scoring from more places than just the starting lineup.
  • Will the Portland be able to protect the paint? The Spurs present a particular problem for the Blazers: If Spurs guards can’t get past Jusef Nurkic to the hoop, Pau Gasol is able to stretch it out with his effective 3-point game; if Nurkic follows Gasol to the perimeter, it could open up an express way to the lane. And, of course, LaMarcus Aldridge can draw defenders away from rim as well. The Blazers will have to be disciplined and smart, giving initial resistance on the perimeter and helping quickly if that first line of defense is broken. If the Blazers can play a smart and tenacious game they have a chance, at least against the Leonard-less Spurs.

What they’re saying

Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes that with a little rest, Manu Ginobili can still bring it:

In addition to sitting out Wednesday night’s 112-106 loss at Philadelphia, Ginobili got plenty of sleep the night before he faced the Suns.

Refreshed by all the down time, Ginobili had a season-high 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting in just 19 minutes in the 103-89 win over the Suns on Friday night.

In doing so, he became the first player in NBA history to score 20-plus points in less than 20 minutes at age 40 or older.

The Spurs have been juggling lineups all year, and it will be the same against the Blazers. According to the Associated Press, this has had an impact on former Blazer Patty Mills’ numbers:

“It’s been tough for Patty,” Popovich told the media. “He’s been all over the place. He’s trying to help us any way he can. It has hurt his numbers a little bit.”

Mills has had to juggle two roles -- as spark-plug sixth man and as a disciplined point guard.

”It’s difficult, because it’s a whole different kind of mentality that you’ve got to have playing both styles,” he said.

Kawhi Leonard won’t be playing against the Blazers, but his new Foot Locker commercial is playing (and with an assist from Aldridge). J.R. Wilco from Pounding the Rock says you should check it out:

Drop everything and take 60 seconds to have your world flipped upside down, because everything we thought we knew about Kawhi Leonard is wrong. He’s not only able to carry national commercial, but he even shows off a bit of his acting chops.