The Portland Trail Blazers found no sanctuary in their home arena on Tuesday night, as they were blown out by the San Antonio Spurs by a final score of 114-83. The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak at Moda Center, as the team was defeated in Portland for the first time since opening night back in October.
The Spurs absolutely dominated the first half with an incredible shooting display, leading by 21 at the break. Despite a nice effort from their bench in the fourth quarter, the Blazers were never able to pull within single digits in the second half. Bryn Forbes caught fire late to seal the victory for San Antonio, finishing with a game-high 18 points as one of six Spurs to notch a double-figure scoring mark.
The Blazers, playing without star Damian Lillard and key reserve Nassir Little, never held the lead in the game. Norman Powell and CJ McCollum each had 16 points to lead the team in scoring, but it came on a combined 10-31 shooting performance.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap.
Here were the key storylines from Thursday’s game:
Flipping the Script
The Spurs final shooting numbers are deceptive, as everyone but Forbes turned ice-cold from distance in the second half. They built their massive lead via the long ball, which goes against what they’ve done all season long. The Spurs entered the night having both made and attempted the fewest three-pointers of any team in the league, and nearly eclipsed both of their seasonal average marks in the first half alone. San Antonio used excellent ball movement and took advantage of a lackluster defensive effort to go 11-23 from downtown by halftime, and assisted on 21 of their 28 total made shots in the half.
On the flip side, the Blazer offense slogged through much of the night due to isolation ball, particularly with primarily starters on the floor. For far too much of the night, their offense consisted of McCollum dribbling around while four players stood and watched, waiting for him to eventually take the shot. When Powell got the ball, he made a concerted effort to get to the rim, but unfortunately for Portland, neither player was able to connect on anywhere near a consistent rate.
Early in the third quarter, it appeared the Blazers would simply fold things in and accept the defeat. To their credit, however, they finally started playing with defensive energy, halting the Spurs’ offense and getting the crowd into the game. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to capitalize on the improved defense, as their offense remained largely the same as it had in the first half. All told, they only outscored the Spurs by two in the frame, 18-16.
With an all-bench unit to start the fourth quarter, featuring the team’s five off-season additions (excluding rookies), the Blazers made their best run of the night by far. They closed the deficit to 12 behind continued defensive energy, along with a far smoother, more unselfish offensive attack. Ben McLemore in particular stood out, following up his excellent performance against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday with an 11-point, three assist outing on 4-9 shooting. He served as the biggest beneficiary of the improved ball movement in the second unit.
The positive momentum came to a screeching halt after coach Chauncey Billups re-inserted the starters into the game midway through the quarter. The Spurs immediately went on a run behind Forbes to slam the door shut, cruising to the finish line and holding the Blazers to just 18 points in the fourth quarter. Portland was outscored 46-36 in the second half, after allowing 68 points in the first half.
Ant Exits Early
To add injury to insult, Portland’s Anfernee Simons left the game early in the second quarter after rolling his ankle. He didn’t return to the game. Simons drew the start for the injured Lillard, who will be out for at least the next week still. In 11 minutes of action, Simons went 0-3 from the field, registering one assist. There was no immediate update on the guard’s condition after the game.
The Blazers’ homestand continues as the Boston Celtics roll into town on Saturday night. The game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT.