The Portland Trail Blazers played a good first half against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon, but couldn’t follow up in the second, falling 113-92. The loss marks Portland’s second straight in San Antonio, their 17th in the last 19 games.
Keldon Johnson led the Spurs with 28 points. Keon Johnson and Ben McLemore led the Blazers with 19 apiece. Former Blazer Zach Collins had 18 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes of play.
In a near carbon-copy of Friday night, the Blazers jumped out to an early lead, making the Spurs look lethargic by comparison. Portland hustled down the floor, passed the ball, and hit a trio of threes—two from Greg Brown III—earning a 15-2 advantage in the first four minutes.
Just as they did on Friday, the Spurs called a timeout to recoup, then came back attacking inside...a blitz the Blazers were all but powerless to stop. The next four minutes featured a 15-8 San Antonio run which would continue unabated through the period. Portland got bodies in the lane defensively, but they couldn’t do much against their bigger, more skilled Spurs counterparts.
A 12-0 run over the last four minutes put the Spurs up 26-23 after the first, despite Portland’s huge start. Deja vu.
Portland wasn’t letting another abject blowout happen without a fight, though. They started out the second period shooting 5-5, including another three-pointer from Brown III, plus one from Ben McLemore and another from Didi Louzada. San Antonio went cold at the same time. Portland rebounded their misses well. All of a sudden the Blazers were up 9 again.
A clear-path foul, an open three, and a secondary break layup in succession for the Spurs erased almost all of Portland’s lead. They remained super-hot from distance, though. That and a couple of dunks from Drew Eubanks and Reggie Perry kept them afloat. San Antonio just couldn’t match. The Spurs got running again as the quarter closed. The faster tempo helped them, but Portland still led 56-48 at the half.
These are the 2021-22 Blazers, so you suspected something would go wrong. And it did. The Spurs started the second half on an 18-2 run, courtesy of three-pointers from Zach Collins, Tre Jones, and Keldon Johnson. Portland’s offense was ugly. with shots rolling off the rim in every direction. The Spurs feasted on open looks everywhere. They didn’t even have to run plays...or at least not far. One cut and a pass was enough to get the job done.
San Antonio led 68-60 at the midway point of the third. They continued to shoot well from distance as the period progressed. Portland couldn’t buy a bucket with a Platinum AMEX, but at least they stopped San Antonio from scoring on the run. The goal wasn’t to win the quarter as much as to avoid being blown out during the extended slump. On those grounds, the Blazers succeeded, at least in a limited sense. The Spurs led 82-72 after three, courtesy of a 16-point period for Portland.
If the Blazers were going to turn it around, they needed a strong push at the top of the fourth period. Instead, they got a slog through a swamp of free throws for both sides. It didn’t advantage either team, but that’s bad for the trailing squad.
Unfortunately for Portland, the Spurs broke out of the marsh first. As they had all game long when momentum was lacking, they hit a couple threes. That was enough traction to get the offense rolling again. The Blazers still struggled for every bucket. Not only did they have a hard time keeping up with the roll, it took them seemingly forever just to make up the initial threes that started it.
By the 8:00 mark, the Blazers were down 19 and in the foul penalty, so every ticky-tack infraction was going to send the Spurs to the line. That was enough to shut the door on any potential comeback, which likely wasn’t coming anyway.
Stay tuned for extra analysis from the game, coming soon!
The Blazers head to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder at 5:00 PM, Pacific on Tuesday night.