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Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs Preview

Both the Trail Blazers and the Spurs have much to prove when they meet for the second time this season.

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (13-9) at San Antonio Spurs (10-12)

Sunday, December 2 - 4:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (questionable)
Spurs injuries: Pau Gasol (out), Dejounte Murray (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 are looking to come back after a close loss to the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 30. After starting the season hot, Portland has struggled to close out on the perimeter and hit free throws in clutch moments. The Blazers need to keep up momentum through the 3rd quarter, hope someone gets hot from three, and finish the game strong.

Traditionally solid, the San Antonio Spurs are sputtering this season. They fell below .500 on Nov. 24 for the first time since Oct. 28, 2015, when they lost on opening night. After losing several key players in the offseason, they are struggling with some of the league’s more popular trends: three-point shooting and switchy defenses. Nevertheless, they are still the Spurs and should never be taken lightly.

What to watch for

  • Will Portland’s defense return any time soon? The Trail Blazers won the first matchup of the season 121-108 behind solid defense. Over the last 10 games their defense has taken a nosedive all the way to 28th in the league (114.9). We know they can defend because they’ve done it before, but can they put up a focused effort on Sunday?
  • How effective will the Blazers be from 3? The Blazers shot less than 30% from three in two of the last three games. Against Denver they only attempted 22, far below their season average of 32.2 per game. Have poor shooting nights thrown off their confidence from distance? Look to see if the Blazers attempt more threes.
  • Will the Spurs bounce back? Morale for the Spurs is at a low point, coming off of two demoralizing losses to Minnesota and Houston. After a 90-minute practice on Saturday morning to work out offensive kinks, they are looking for a win against Portland. Will they use the game against Portland to get back on track?

What they’re saying

Kristian Winfield of SB Nation dove into what could be behind the Spurs’ struggles this season including a lack of a dominant point guard:

The NBA is a point guard-driven league. Patty Mills is a good player, but his role has always been a scorer off the bench. Bryn Forbes can shoot the lights out, but he’s an off-guard learning to run the point on the fly. DeMar DeRozan has morphed into a playmaker, but his nature is to score the ball. There’s no Tony Parker anymore, after the Spurs’ legend left and signed a two-year deal with Charlotte in free agency.

Gregg Popovich still really hates three point shots. Even though they are shooting them well (37.9%), his team is 29th in the league in three point attempts per game (24.8). Don’t even get him started on what a 4-point shot would do to the league:

”I hate it, but I always have,” Popovich said even as he’s adjusted over the years. “I’ve hated the three for 20 years. That’s why I make a joke all the time (and say) if we’re going to make it a different game, let’s have a four-point play. Because if everybody likes the three, they’ll really like the four. People will jump out of their seats if you have a five-point play. It will be great. There’s no basketball anymore, there’s no beauty in it. It’s pretty boring. But it is what it is and you need to work with it.”

The Spurs are determined to hang together despite their current issues, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. After their loss to Houston, multiple players stated they needed to handle adversity together. LaMarcus Aldridge acknowledged the challenge they face against his old team.

”The morale changes when you get a good win,” Aldridge said. “Portland is a good team and they’ve been playing well. They have a lot of talented guys. To bounce back and get a win tomorrow would be great for us.”

This preview was co-written with Lindsay Hostetler. Thanks for the assist, Lindsay!