The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 128-112 in the first game of a long six game road trip. The Blazers did so in dominant fashion, save for a third quarter scare. They took an eleven point lead into the second quarter, and never relinquished the lead past that point.
The quarter by quarter recap of the game can be found here. Now for some observations about the game.
Lillard picked up where he left off after his dominant 38 point performance in three quarters last game. He scored 22 in the first half alone on a very efficient 9-15 from the field. Not to be outdone, even by himself, he tacked on an extra 15 in the second half to bring his total for the game up to 37. This marks the fourth straight outing of at least 35 points, matching Joel Embiid for the longest such streak this year. For the second straight game Lillard did almost all of his damage from the field, with only two of his points coming from the line. He also brought up his total to 30 total three pointers over this last four game stretch. Lillard’s scoring stretch continues as he inches ever closer to Clyde’s record, now sitting just 69 behind the Blazers legend.
Scoring In Bunches
The Blazers put up a season high 73 points in the first half. They shot 66% from the field, and added 10 threes on just 21 attempts in the half. After a rough looking third quarter, the Blazers closed with a 31 point fourth quarter to put the Spurs away and end the game with 128 points. The Blazers have now put up at least 120 points in their last four games. The Blazers offense is humming along now that they are back near full strength.
Doing The Dirty Work
The Blazers quartet of Justise Winslow, Josh Hart, Trendon Watford, and Drew Eubanks combined for just 17 points between the four of them, but proved their value in many other ways. The four had 20 total rebounds, and the bench trio of Winslow, Watford, and Eubanks didn’t miss a single one of their five shots. Winslow, Hart, Watford, and Eubanks also chipped in on the defensive end and helped take the pressure off of Lillard and others to perform on both ends, allowing them to focus primarily on the offensive end.
The Big Four
Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkic combined for 93 points, 19 rebounds, and 20 assists. The stuffing of the stat sheet that those four did balances perfectly with the players in the trenches to create a Blazers force that proved difficult to stop. When Lillard and Simons are both making their shots, there aren’t many teams in the league that can keep up with that. That’s not to mention the additions of Grant and Nurkic. All four ended the night above 50% from the field and played very well off each other.
The Third Quarter
It is easy to look at the final score and see dominance from one side, and that wouldn’t be entirely wrong. However, for a brief eight minute period to start the second half, the Spurs looked like the better team. The Spurs managed to cut a sixteen point Blazer half time lead to just four at one point, thanks in large part to an 11-0 run about half way through the period. The rest of the game went about as expected for the Blazers, but this quarter was concerning to say the least. The end result was fine, but the Blazers need to play like their first, second, and fourth quarter selves rather than their third quarter selves as they move into a weaker part of their schedule or they could exit that stretch with a couple disappointing losses.
Taking Care Of Business
What really separates good teams from great teams is the ability to win games against worse teams. Being able to blow out the bottom feeders is generally a good sign of the strength of a team. With games coming up against the Houston Rockets and two against the Oklahoma City Thunder, that makes four of the six games this road trip against the West’s bottom three. Tonight was a great win, and the first in a string of hopeful resume padders for the Blazers.
Allowing Second Chances
The Blazers were outshot 97-81 by the Spurs. They allowed 14 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 17 times. They made up the difference by shooting 60% from the field and 45% from three of course, but the point still stands. If the Spurs shot just a little better than their 46% from the field, they could have had a real shot. Luckily, the offensive rebounding numbers seemed to come from good defense causing more missed shots, not bad rebounding, and the Blazers were able to mitigate a six turnover difference due in large part to that defense. The shot differential is a little bit concerning, but didn’t burn them tonight.
The Blazers now head to Dallas to take on the Luka Doncic lead Mavericks for the second game of their road trip. The game tips off Friday December 16th at 5:30 p.m. PT.