On Tuesday night, the shorthanded Trail Blazers pulled off the upset, taking out the Sacramento Kings by the score of 130-113. Anfernee Simons led the Blazers with 29 points, but it was a smashing coming-out party for Duop Reath who had 25 points on 60% shooting from the field while going 3 for 6 from deep.
Now he San Antonio Spurs come to town for back-to-back games having lost a stunning 23 out of their last 24 games. The Spurs can’t stop anyone, giving up 123.2 points per game, third-worst in the NBA. Over the last five games it’s been even worse, giving up 133.2 points per game. In their last game they lost to Utah Jazz 130-118.
San Antonio Spurs (4-25) at Portland Trail Blazers (8-21) - Thursday, Dec. 28 - 7:00 p.m. Pacific
How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass
Trail Blazers injuries: Robert Williams III (out), Shaedon Sharpe (out), Deandre Ayton (out)
Spurs injuries: Charles Bassey (out), Victor Wembanyama (questionable)
SBNation Affiliate: Pounding the Rock
Blazer’s Edge Reader Questions
I’ve heard some real criticism of Pop from national media this year. I can’t remember specifics but it involved unconventional lineup decisions and how he’s raising VM. The upshot was “we’d be killing any other coach for this.”
Then there was the “stop booing Kawhi” thing. Plus they’re truly terrible it seems.
How I guess my question is, how goes the relationship between Pop and Spurs fandom?
Questions are being asked. Barring some miraculous turnaround this will be the fifth consecutive season missing the playoffs. That’s a long time for fans to wait for some success, especially fans who were spoiled by 25 years of highly competitive basketball. As you point out, Popovich hasn’t made things easier on himself by experimenting with the lineup, most notably by temporarily starting 6’8” power forward Jeremy Sochan at point guard. At the end of the day though you take the bad with the good along with the somewhat strange if Popovich is your coach. Five titles and more NBA wins than any other coach tends to outweigh any current fan frustration. Realistically this wasn’t going to be the season for them to contend. Winning the Wembanyama lottery, much like with Portland getting Scoot, makes the future intriguing but in some ways makes the present more difficult. The ceiling has been raised for the future but the floor for present has been lowered as they work to get their coveted rookie integrated into the NBA. Next season might be a different story if there isn’t improvement, but for the rest of season you might hear grumbling but it won’t amount to anything.
Thanks for the question!
What To Watch For
- Shot making. Want a simple reason for why the Blazers and Spurs are holding up the bottom of the West in 14th and 15th place? The Spurs are 28th and the Blazers are tied for last in the NBA in shooting percentage. Sometimes the game is pretty simple. If you don’t make baskets you don’t win games.
- Victor Wembanyama. So how are things going? One of the biggest concerns is how he’d hold up in the physical NBA. So far, so good, in spite of the rolled ankle that will almost certainly keep him out of one of the two games against the Blazers. Beyond that, he’s been tantalizing but maybe not quite as NBA-ready as we might have thought. Let’s not get this wrong, he is averaging a double-double with 18.3 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. It’s the efficiency that isn’t quite there yet. 43.3% from the field and 27.8% from deep isn’t quite what you’d hope for with a guy who is 7’4” and whose pre-NBA highlight reel had him hitting shots from all over the court. Let’s be serious though, he’s 19 and he moves like he’s a 6’4” gaurd. He’s going to be a spectacular player for years to come barring any health concerns. He’s just not ready to completely dominate the NBA. Yet.
What Others Are Saying
Lee Dresie of Pounding the Rock says that in spite of not taking Haliburton the Spurs did pretty well in the 2020 draft.
Of the ten players picked before Vassel in 2020, the Sporting News has SIX of those ten players completely out of the re-draft lottery: Wiseman (2), Patrick Williams (4), Isaac Okoro (5), Killian Hayes (7), Deni Avdija (9) and Jalen Smith (10). The article has another top-ten draft pick, Obi Toppin (8), dropped behind Vassel to the 14th and last pick in the lottery. (Remember that teams had much less access to the players in the run-up to the 2020 draft because of the pandemic.) In light of the fact that 60% of the top ten picks in the 2020 draft would not even be in the lottery in this imaginary re-draft, and another player moved from ahead of Vassel to behind, it appears the Spurs did very well with the 11th pick — even if they missed on Haliburton. They certainly did not miss as badly as six other teams.
Victor Wembanyama will be available for one but not both games with the Blazers reports Inside the Spurs’ Jonah Kubicek.
On Saturday, he rolled his ankle again during warmups, tripping over a Dallas Mavericks’ ball boy, and was pulled from the lineup minutes before tipoff. It was later revealed that there was no serious injury, but the Spurs will be exercising some load management with Wembanyama, and he will sit out one of the games in the upcoming back-to-back series in Portland.
Mike Monroe of the Athletic looks at Jeremy Sochan’s one-handed free throws (subscription required).
With a form that may well be unique in the history of the game, the only time Sochan touches the basketball with his left hand occurs when he uses both hands to catch it when tossed by a referee. Then, so quickly one can scarcely notice, he positions his right hand under the ball while simultaneously releasing his left hand and instantly beginning his shooting stroke. Completed with a picture-perfect release, the new form has produced dramatic improvement that Gregg Popovich appreciates and Sochan’s teammates marvel at.
Anfernee Simons is now questionable for tonight’s game with an illness.