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Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs Preview

The Blazers hit the road again to take on the sub-.500 Spurs.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (4-8) at San Antonio Spurs (5-7)

November 16, 2019 - 5:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Pau Gasol (out), Carmelo Anthony (not yet)
Spurs injuries: Dejounte Murray (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Pounding the Rock

The Portland Trail Blazers may have Carmelo Anthony on the way, but this six-game road trip starts with the same players who have lost six of their last seven. On Wednesday, the Blazers fell to the Toronto Raptors by a score of 114-106 in Portland. As is par for the course this season, Portland looked competitive for significant stretches of game, but in the end the Raptors outclassed the Blazers and came away comfortable winners.

The San Antonio Spurs are also finding themselves in undesirable territory having also lost six of their last seven. While stars DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are filing the stat sheets, the wins aren’t coming. In the case of the Spurs, the jury is still out as to whether this team can turn it around. On paper, they seem to have the players to make a run for the playoffs. On the court it currently doesn’t look so likely. With the Spurs being on the second night of a back-to-back, the Blazers have a golden opportunity to pick up a road win. On Friday the Spurs lost 111-109 in Orlando.

These two teams met already this season in San Antonio, a 113-110 loss for the Blazers. Both teams had large leads that neither team was able to hold on to, but in the end San Antonio was just able to get their noses in front and get the win.

What to watch for

  • Lots of midrange from San Antonio. The Spurs are attempting the second-lowest number of three-pointers in the NBA at 25.7 per game, a far cry from the Blazers’ 33.8 attempts. No superstar pair of teammates take fewer shots from deep than DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Between them they put up fewer than two per game. This would seem to play into the hands of the Blazers who have had difficulty guarding the three-point line. However, lack of three-point shooting from the Spurs didn’t help the Blazers in their last meeting when the Spurs attempted only 22 but still defeated Portland.
  • A better third quarter from Portland. The Blazers have had some rough third quarters this season. Most recently they scored eight points fewer than the Toronto Raptors and 14 points fewer than the Sacramento Kings in the third quarter. Perhaps the Spurs are what the Blazers need to break the spell. The Spurs have been outscored in the third quarter in their last three games.
  • A happy medium for Damian Lillard. Lillard has scored at will this season but it hasn’t always lead to wins. In the last game against Toronto, it seemed like he was making a conscious effort to get teammates open looks, finishing with 10 assists. However, he only scored nine points, well under his average of 30.5. Damian will be searching for balance against the Spurs. He needs to score more than nine, but he also needs to trust his teammate to knock down shots. Without reasonable balance the Blazers could well be looking at another loss in San Antonio.

What they’re saying

Catch up with what folks in San Antonio feel about the Spurs’ season so far with the Pounding the Rock roundtable:

San Antonio is now below .500 going into a road-heavy part of the schedule, so things could get worse. It’s not time to hit the panic button yet, but the problems on defense and whether there needs to be changes to the rotation merit some serious discussion.

PtR contributors Marilyn Dubinski, Mark Barrington, Bruno Passos and Jesus Gomez join Editor-in-Chief J.R. Wilco to get into those topics and offer their thoughts on Tony Parker’s jersey retirement ceremony and on the load management controversy in this week’s edition of our round table.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer takes a close look at the Spurs and their decidedly different approach:

Adaptability is the hallmark of San Antonio under Popovich. He tailors their system to fit the strengths of the personnel, and these days, the Spurs have a paradoxical style that inspires nostalgia for the past, appreciation for the present, and curiosity about whatever might be coming in the NBA.

Ethan Farina of Air Alamo gives the San Antonio perspective on the Blazers signing Carmelo Anthony:

One takeaway from this is that, unlike the Spurs, the Blazers are recognizing that their season is not going the way that they had planned and are making adjustments to get back on course. That’s a stark contrast to the Spurs who seem determined to attempt to fight through their early-season struggles and come out stronger on the other side. Only time will tell which path is more conducive to success.