Portland Trail Blazers (27-44) vs San Antonio Spurs (28-44)
After a five-game East Coast road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers return to the Moda Center for a five-game homestand against Western Conference opponents, starting with a showdown against the San Antonio Spurs tonight.
The Blazers’ 119-115 win Monday night against the Detroit Pistons was their lone win on the long road trip. The four losses preceding the Detroit win did enough damage to drop Portland to the 12th spot in the Western Conference standings with 11 games left in the regular season. All of Portland’s remaining games will be played against Western Conference teams.
The Spurs — fresh off a wild 110-108 Sunday win against the Golden State Warriors — sit 0.5 games ahead of Portland at 11th in the Western Conference standings. This will be the first of three meetings between the teams before the regular season ends. With San Antonio two games behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the 10th spot in the West, these three meetings could prove pivotal in deciding the play-in race and whether Portland receives a lottery pick from New Orleans.
Wednesday, March 23- 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Josh Hart (out), Damian Lillard (out), Nassir Little (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Eric Bledsoe (out), Didi Louzada (out), Joe Ingles (out), Anfernee Simons (out), Greg Brown III (probable)
Spurs Injuries: Lonnie Walker IV (out), Romeo Langford (out), Doug McDermott (out), Keita Bates-Diop (probable)
SBN Affiliate: Pounding the Rock
DraftKings Odds: Portland Trail Blazers, +9.5, Over/Under 231
What To Watch For
Zach Collins’ Return. Former Blazers big man Zach Collins will be returning to play at the Moda Center for the first time since October 2019 — though this time he’ll be sporting gray and black. After missing the entire 2020-2021 season, the fifth-year pro returned to the NBA hardwood Feb. 4 in a game against Houston. In 18 games for the Spurs, including two starts, Collins has averaged 6.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 16.3 minutes per game. Collins’ best outing of the season came March 11 against the Utah Jazz. He tallied 15 points and five rebounds in a 104-102 win. Collins’ time in Portland became overshadowed by injury woes and the staunch standard held up against lottery picks, but he provided plenty of heart, hustle, and defense during his 174 games in a Blazers uniform. Collins also provided invaluable contributions during Portland’s 2019 Western Conference Finals run. Fans will likely greet the fiery competitor with a standing ovation.
Another Reunion. Collins isn’t the only big man seeing his former team tonight. Portland center Drew Eubanks appeared in 148 games for the Spurs from 2018 to 2022 before the team dealt him to the Toronto Raptors at February’s trade deadline. Toronto promptly waived Eubanks, paving the way for the Oregon native to come to Portland. Now on his third 10-day contract with the Blazers, Eubanks is averaging 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game — all of them starts. More known for his screening prowess and toughness, Eubanks scored 17 points in Portland’s win against Detroit and dropped a career-high 20 points against the Washington Wizards March 12. He’s scored in double figures in six consecutive games. It’ll be interesting to see if his at-the-rim finishes and soaring skyhooks can provide an impact against the team that traded him last month.
Sharing the Rock. The Spurs may only have 28 wins on the season, but they still showcase one of the league’s most potent offenses at 112.7 points per game. Most impressive is the Spurs ability to share the rock. Evidence of their Gregg Popovich influence, the Spurs lead the NBA with 28 assists per game (Portland is 26th with a lowly 22.7 assists per game). On the flip side, this Portland defense gives up the most assists in the NBA at 26.5 per game. Last week, Portland surrendered 38 assists to the struggling Indiana Pacers. San Antonio’s offense could run on all cylinders tonight.
What Others are Saying
Noah Magaro-George of Pounding the Rock writes about new Spurs acquisition Josh Richardson and his instant impact for the club.
Josh Richardson has established himself as a valuable acquisition for San Antonio since joining the franchise at the trade deadline. The 28-year-old guard has drilled 48.5% of his three-pointers during his first 11 games with the Spurs. That is the seventh-highest percentage in the NBA across that timeframe. Richardson was on fire against Golden State, with 25 points in 27 minutes off the bench. He attacked mismatches versus bigs on dribble handoffs, nailed a corner three, stepped into midrange jumpers, knocked down several deep above-the-break triples.
Andrew Lopez of ESPN writes about the recent stellar play of Spurs forward Keldon Johnson. Johnson was the hero in San Antonio’s tight win against Golden State.
Spurs forward Keldon Johnson has been playing the best basketball of his young career since the All-Star break. He has had his first three 30-point games since the Spurs returned to play — 32 points against the Wizards on Feb. 25, 33 points against the Hornets on March 5 and a career-high 34 points last Monday against the Timberwolves. And while he didn’t hit the 30-point plateau Sunday, he did get the game-winning putback to defeat the Warriors.
Zach Harper of The Athletic writes how San Antonio’s 124-91 loss to the Pelicans last Friday puts the Spurs in a difficult position going forward.
The Spurs are in the mix with this 10-slot for the Play-In Tournament, but they’ve got to win all these games against Portland and New Orleans to take advantage of their remaining schedule opportunities. Dropping that one to New Orleans earlier this past week really hurt their chances.