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Portland Trail Blazers vs. San Antonio Spurs Preview

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The Blazers will look to make it two in a row to open the season against LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs.

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NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (1-0) vs. San Antonio Spurs (1-0)

Saturday, October 20 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Maurice Harkless (probable)
Spurs injuries: Dejounte Murray (out), Lonnie Walker (out), Derrick White (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Pounding the Rock

The Portland Trail Blazers will look to build on their win against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers this past Thursday. Any victory over a LeBron-led team is a good one, but the 128-119 win was especially noteworthy for the bench contribution, especially from Nik Stauskas.

The San Antonio Spurs were victorious over the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-108 on Wednesday. While the Spurs showed poise in defeating the Wolves, they enter the season with more questions than answers. Injuries are going to be a factor for at least a few months, and some of the most familiar names are gone: no Kawhi Leonard, no Tony Parker and no Manu Ginobili. Two stars that will suit up for the Spurs have to be the primary concerns for the Blazers: DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. DeRozan scored 28 for his new team on Wednesday, while Aldridge scored 21 and pulled down 19 rebounds.

What to watch for

  • Opportunities for Damian Lillard. With Dejounte Murray injured, the Spurs are going to war with Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills. Both players are reasonably solid, but Forbes, the likely starter, has been a defensive liability for San Antonio. Forbes can score in spurts, but neither him nor Mills are good bets to light up the scoreboard over the course of a whole game. With a bit more space than he’s used to, and perhaps an easier time than usual on the defensive end, Lillard might be in position to have a big night.
  • Battle of the second units. Portland showed glimpses of something on Thursday that fans haven’t seen in these parts in a long time: a full second unit that shows indications that it might be a net positive throughout the season. Of course, one game does not make a season, but Blazers fans have every right to be optimistic. Coach Stotts appears to have trust in 10+ guys to be regular contributors, and in the very small sample size we have, the second unit has delivered reasonably well. The Spurs have perhaps a weaker second unit than in the past, but Popovitch-coached teams always seem to get the most out of every player. If the Blazers subs can outperform the Spurs subs, it is hard to imagine a Spurs victory.
  • Containing Aldridge. LaMarcus Aldridge causes a particular problem for the Blazers: long, mobile and with range, he can distort defenses and open things up for the likes of DeMar DeRozan. LA is too mobile for Jusuf Nurkic, and has a few inches on either Moe Harkless or Jake Layman. Aldridge is certain to get a double-double, and the Blazers can live with that. However, keeping him around 20 points and 10 rebounds has to be a priority. If the first string can’t get it done, Zach Collins might be called on to see if he can slow down the L-Train.

What they’re saying

CharlieOCharles of Pounding the Rock explains the Spurs motion offense with plenty of detail and examples:

The Spurs’ motion offense only runs when its players are confident. It requires them to make instant decisions, whether to shoot, drive, or pass for the person with the ball, and whether to space, cut, or screen for those off the ball. When any one player can’t or won’t do those things, the offense grinds to a halt. That’s why players like PauGasol and Marco Belinelli have so much value with this team - they never hesitate.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News writes that LaMarcus Aldridge is getting a better reception each time he returns to Portland:

But with each successive return visit, Aldridge has noticed a subtle thawing in the reception he receives.

“It’s been more cheers and more ‘we miss you,’” Aldridge said. “Rather than, ‘We hope you die.’”

How much has San Antonio embraced DeMar DeRozan? The player couldn’t get his own jersey according to RJ Marquez of KSAT 12:

The crowd also embraced their new all-star. So much so that DeRozan said he’s having trouble finding his No. 10 jersey for sale.

“It’s crazy, I tried to get my mom a jersey last week and it was sold out,” DeRozan said. “I was trying to tell her that and she didn’t believe me.”