Portland Trail Blazers (15-12) vs San Antonio Spurs (9-18)
The Portland Trail Blazers take on the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio to start a long six game road trip. The Blazers look to pick up their third straight win in this contest after winning back to back games over the Minnesota Timberwolves in their last two games.
The Spurs started the season strong, winning five of their first seven. Things have turned around and the Spurs have been in a free fall, losing 16 of their next 17 games as they plummet to 14th in the NBA Western Conference. They are on a three-game win streak heading into this matchup, and look to catch the Blazers off guard.
Spurs vs. Trail Blazers — Wednesday, December 14, 5:00 p.m. PT
How to Watch: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass
Blazers Injuries: Nassir Little (out), Gary Payton II (out), Josh Hart (day-to-day), Drew Eubanks (probable)
Spurs Injuries: Jakob Poeltl (out), Keita Bates-Diop (out), Blake Wesley (out), Josh Richardson (questionable), Zach Collins (doubtful), Romeo Langford (doubtful)
SBN Affiliate: Pounding The Rock
What To Watch For
Damian Lillard. In his last three games, Lillard has put up scoring totals of 40, 36, and 38. He has torched opposing defenses, and has willed the Blazers to wins, or within a last second shot of one, in all three. The Blazers’ skid is over, and Lillard is right back at the forefront of an efficient Blazers offense. As good as the supporting cast is around him, the Blazers begin and end with Damian Lillard. The Spurs are dealing with plenty of injuries, and have been in free fall, but that doesn’t mean a game off for the Blazers as they face a Gregg Popovich led team. Good teams beat easier opponents. Lillard will be an important part of a Blazers effort to do just that.
Spurs youth movement. The Spurs are in the middle of a rebuild, and as such are led by young players rather than the veterans that Popovich is used to. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell are both averaging over 20 points per game so far in this young season. The Spurs are not playing for much this season other than lottery odds, but it is always promising to see the younger players showing promise. The Blazers could get caught off guard by a young energetic Spurs roster if they are not careful, and Johnson and Primo will be the two to look out for if that were to happen.
Turnover battle. Both the Blazers and the Spurs rank in the bottom third of the league in turnovers per game. Due to the vast difference in pace between the two teams, the turnover battle could play a large part in the outcome of this game. If the Spurs are able to force turnovers, run in transition, and get easy baskets it could swing the game in their favor. However, if the Blazers are able to control the tempo and limit easy transition opportunities off turnovers, they will likely be able to slow down a Spurs team that wants to go fast.
What Others Are Saying
Noah Magaro George from Pounding The Rock talks about the strides Devin Vassell has made as a scorer.
Devin Vassell has made tremendous strides as a scorer this season, and San Antonio has asked him to self-create points more often in late-clock situations as he has become more comfortable with the ball in his hands. Although the Spurs didn’t have many opportunities to participate in close contests during their 11-game losing streak, their last two wins were nail-biters, and they leaned on Vassell in the clutch.
The 2020 lottery selection is still at his best getting to his spots with help from teammates, but he is the only player on the roster with the combination of size, length, handles, and footwork off the bounce. Those physical tools and composure in the face of pressure make it easy to see why the Silver and Black have asked Vassell to be their go-to guy option down the stretch of tight matchups.
Inside the Spurs’ Zach Dimmitt mentions the defensive prowess of new San Antonio Spur, Stanley Johnson.
The term “position-less defender” tends to get thrown around a lot, but it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the case when it comes to Johnson.
When looking at Johnson’s defensive capabilities, it again comes back to his ability to maintain balance, strength and physicality whether he’s having to slide his feet on the perimeter or hold his ground right outside the paint.
It says a lot that Johnson’s got a defensive highlights compilation on YouTube, which features him being tasked as the primary one-on-one defender against stars like Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and James Harden, matchups put upon even during the early stages of his career in Detroit.