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Portland Trail Blazers vs. San Antonio Spurs Preview

The Blazers look to get back on the horse as they welcome the Spurs to the Moda Center.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (32-21) vs. San Antonio Spurs (32-24)

Thursday, February 7 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Spurs injuries: Dejounte Murray (out), Derrick White (out)
How to watch on TV: TNT
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Pounding the Rock

The Portland Trail Blazers will be looking to bounce back against the San Antonio Spurs after coming out flat in a loss on Tuesday to the Miami Heat. The loss was the Blazers’ first at home since Jan. 4 and came after Portland had five days off. The Blazers are 1-1 against the Spurs so far this season with an early season win in Portland and a December loss in San Antonio.

The Spurs will be looking for the first win of their annual Rodeo Road Trip—an extended stretch of road games that occurs when the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo moves into the AT&T Center. This year’s trip began on Monday in Sacramento and won’t end until the Spurs host Detroit on Feb. 27. San Antonio is coming off a blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night. Both LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan sat out against the Warriors for rest purposes.

What to watch for

  • Stopping DeMar DeRozan. In two games against Portland this season DeRozan has led the Spurs with 28 and 36 points. DeRozan is having a good first season after being traded to San Antonio last July. He’s averaging 21.3 points per game—slightly down from last season’s 23—to go with career highs in both rebounds and assists (6.2 per game each). The good news for Portland is that DeRozan has been in a bit of a slump. He’s scored only 15.7 points while shooting 40.6 percent over his last 10 games.
  • Lillard and McCollum. San Antonio will want to focus their defensive energy on slowing down Lillard and McCollum. Portland’s dynamic backcourt has torched the Spurs in the teams’ two meetings this season combining for 54 (29 for Lillard; 24 for McCollum) in Portland’s win and 61 (37 for Lillard; 24 for McCollum) in their loss. McCollum has been red hot lately, averaging 28.4 points in his last five games while shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 48.9 percent from three. Lillard is coming off a poor performance against Miami, but he’s still putting up 27.1 points and 7.1 assists in his last 10 games.
  • Rodney Hood’s debut. Rodney Hood is expected to make his Trail Blazer debut Thursday night. Terry Stotts said that Hood, who started 45 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, will be worked into the rotation. What isn’t clear is how that rotation will play out. Most likely Hood will take minutes away from either Moe Harkless or Jake Layman. Harkless has been starting since returning from injury, but Layman has gotten more minutes during that span. Hood could also take minutes away from Seth Curry. It will be interesting to see how Stotts manages the new rotation Thursday night.

What they’re saying

San Antonio is near the bottom of the league in three-point attempts (24.9 per game), but they lead the league in three-point percentage (40.5 percent). Huw Hopkins of Pounding the Rock argues the Spurs should not focus on shooting a higher volume of threes:

San Antonio has the sixth best offensive rating in the league. While many feel this could get even better if the team increased its three-point attempts, the numbers suggest it would be a detriment to their record if they started firing them up for the sake of it. In the 10 games when the Spurs have out-shot their opponents from beyond the arc, they have a record of 5-5. However, when they attempt fewer threes than the team they are playing, the record improves to 26-17, a winning rate of 65 percent.

FiveThirtyEight posted a video highlighting how the Spurs turned around their season:

According to our projections, the San Antonio Spurs currently have an 87 percent chance to make their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance. But only two months ago, our projections gave them just a 4 percent chance of making the postseason while they were struggling with new players and a bad defense. In the video above, Chris Herring walks through what’s changed for San Antonio and where things stand for the franchise as we march toward the playoffs.

Gregg Popovich talked about how the team comes together during the extended Rodeo Road Trip as reported by Jeff Garcia for News 4, San Antonio’s local NBC affiliate:

“We have always looked forward to the Rodeo Road Trip,” said head coach Gregg Popovich. “It’s a time with fewer distractions and they have to depend on themselves more than ever – it’s kind of like being in the foxhole together.”

The extended period away from San Antonio has always been described as a time when the team comes together on and off the court. it’s when things click and the players get on the same page as the second half of the NBA season begins.

“Win or lose, it’s always a good experience because you get to learn more about each other,” Popovich said.