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Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs Preview

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The Blazers lost to the Rockets without Damian Lillard, but he’s expected back against the Spurs.

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (48-31) at San Antonio Spurs (45-34)

Saturday, April 7th - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (probable), Maurice Harkless (out), Ed Davis (out),
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (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

Losers of two straight in the annual Texas Triangle, the Portland Trail Blazers look to get back on track against the San Antonio Spurs. With the Spurs and Utah Jazz nipping at their heels in the standings, the Blazers would love to get a win Saturday in order to all but lock up the third seed in the Western Conference.

The good news for Portland is that Damian Lillard is expected to be available. While it remains to be seen how hobbled he is, it was clear against Houston how much he was missed; at least until the third-stringers mounted an almost miraculous comeback against the Rockets.

What to watch for

LaMarcus Aldridge mid-range jumpers. This point probably doesn’t need too much explanation. After all, Blazer fans watched LaMarcus Aldridge feast in the mid-range for nearly a decade. But Aldridge is having a dominant season from outside. While he’s limited his long jumpers somewhat, he’s feasting from 10-16 feet. The Blazers are going to have a tough time containing him on the left block. Al-Farouq Aminu will have his hands full for sure, and Zach Collins may get a bit of the rookie treatment if he doesn’t stay on balance.

A balanced attack. With Kawhi Leonard out of action, the Spurs are missing serious star power, aside from Aldridge. Still, they manage to keep humming along by getting solid contributions from a variety of vets. 11 Spurs (not counting Leonard) average double-digit minutes, and nine average eight or more points per game.

The opposite of Thursday’s game. Though they play in the same state, the Spurs and Rockets play completely opposite styles of basketball. The Spurs shoot the fourth-fewest 3-pointers in the NBA and play at the league’s second-slowest pace. San Antonio relies on their defense and their veteran savvy, not wasting possessions. Because of this, a seven-point deficit can feel like 15 when grinding it out against the Spurs.

What they’re saying

Rob Wolkenbrod from Air Alamo discusses how the Spurs have tried to find a second scorer behind Aldridge:

Well, with Leonard unexpectedly missing all but nine games, it placed the offensive load on Aldridge’s shoulders. He continuously led the team in scoring and is the only Spur to cross 30 points this season. Players have stepped up to score 20 points, sure, but hardly on a nightly basis to aid the team’s star and dampen the pressure.

Rudy Gay is San Antonio’s next closest player to a breakout scorer. However, he only topped 20 points five times in 54 games. Patty Mills and Danny Green proved to be too streaky to fill this role, either, and play best as players that help not lead.

The offensive burden crashed and burned on Aldridge’s shoulders late in Wednesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Once the Purple and Gold double-teamed him at the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime, the offense seemed lost. Mills was forced to create shots (most of which were long two-point attempts) and Dejounte Murray did all he could to take multiple floaters near the basket.

Giri Nathan from Deadspin gives props to Kyle Anderson playing slow basketball:

You can deploy change-of-speed on a particular play—a single move to shake loose a defender. Or you know, you can deploy change-of-speed just generally, as a human being. That can be your whole shit. The first one works by defying a defender’s expectation of how a basketball player would move in a specific instance. The second one works by defying a defender’s expectation of how a basketball player would move. Maybe, to return to the idiom, your competitive advantage is going from 0 to (very generously) 40, and back down to 20 again; maybe that poses a broader puzzle. You can play your whole career in slow-mo, and even call yourself that, if you are Kyle Anderson, the 6-foot-9 Spurs starter in possession of many basketball-relevant skills, none of which have anything to do with going fast.

There he was on Sunday, picking something out of Harden’s teeth and then embarking on what the original poster of this video very faithfully describes as a “Slow Break.” Keep your Giannis wrecking-ball routines to yourself: Anderson’s might be the most enjoyable transition player in basketball, after you account for the sheer comedy coefficient. All of us are Tarik Black here, jogging right alongside the play and yet powerless to defend it, as if hypnotized by Anderson’s languid strides.