The Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs met in an early game on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a game for which Portland’s defense did not show up. Rodney Hood started for the injured CJ McCollum, acquitting himself well with 21 points on 9-14 shooting. Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 35 on the day he was named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week. But Portland lived and died by the three-pointer. The Blazers shot just 10-35 (28.6%) in the game, allowing San Antonio to go 15-33 (45.5%) from distance. No amount of cardboard homecourt advantage was going to overcome that gap. Portland fell 125-104
Rodney Hood started off the game with a pair of three-pointers in the first 120 seconds. He and LaMarcus Aldridge took turns scoring throughout the opening shift. Once again the Blazers stopped nobody but scored enough to mask it...an impressive feat in McCollum’s absence. When the bench came in, Carmelo Anthony tried to take over where Hood left off, to middling success. San Antonio led 32-28 after one.
The Blazers dug themselves in a hole as the second quarter progressed, allowing easy passes and open threes. The starters returned mid-period and made up for a host of sins. Lillard turned up the scoring while Derrick Jones, Jr. continued his excellent defense. A nine-point Spurs lead shrank to one in the space of three minutes. In the final two minutes, though, San Antonio turned up the “Anyone but Dame” defense. That stopped Portland’s halfcourt scoring...not a great sign for the second half. The Blazers still scored off of turnovers, but a couple of threes put the Spurs up 59-54 at the half.
The Blazers remained weak on defense from 20-feet and in as the third period opened. Aldridge hit jumpers and DeMar DeRozen got layups. Portland was saved by San Antonio missing open threes, but the game hung by that thin of a thread. Jones, Jr. helped key a 7-0 run mid-quarter to keep Portland in it, blocking shots and getting out on the break. Then Lillard hit a three and got fouled on another. Suddenly the game was close again. The Blazers tied it as Lillard converted a layup with 3:00 remaining. San Antonio went on a mini-run late against permissive Portland defense, leaving the score 87-82 for the Spurs after three.
Portland started off the fourth rocky, allowing the Spurs to shoot themselves to a double-digit lead, but Terry Stotts re-inserted Lillard in the game early to restore sanity. With Lillard drawing the defense. Anthony hit a pair of threes and Anfernee Simons one. If the Blazers could have defended anyone, they would have been right back in the game. Also if Olestra didn’t cause embarrassing leakage, non-fat potato chips would have been all the rage. Neither happened. Instead, Portland’s defense resembled a tanker truck full of Olestra and the Spurs actually increased their lead during one of Portland’s best shooting streaks of the day. When the Blazers started missing, San Antonio’s lead got to 17 and they never looked back.
Stay tuned for our extended recap from Steve Dewald, coming up soon!
The Blazers welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to the Moda Center on Wednesday night at 7:00.