San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers (-5, 196 o/u)
As expected, the San Antonio Spurs (17-7, 9-5 away) are holding their own in the tough Western Conference, currently sitting fifth; however, the next half dozen games will test the veteran squad, which faces Memphis, Dallas, Los Angeles (Clippers), Oklahoma City, and Portland (twice).
The fun for Tim Duncan and company begins tonight when the Spurs face the Portland Trail Blazers (18-6, 10-2 home) at the Moda Center.
The Spurs have multiple factors weighing against them heading into tonight’s game. The aging team played last night in Denver and point guard Tony Parker may not be able to suit up. The Frenchman didn’t play yesterday in the team’s 99-91 victory over the Nuggets due to a hamstring strain, which has forced Parker to miss four of the last five games, and he remains questionable for tonight’s matchup.
While Parker is a key part of San Antonio’s offense, the team has managed 107.4 PPG over its last five.
San Antonio also had to play two in a row without small forward Kawhi Leonard, who was suffering from a hand injury. But the 2014 NBA Finals MVP returned Sunday and was all over the stat sheet, scoring 18 points and adding eight rebounds, six blocks, and five steals.
“It didn’t feel 100 percent but I felt I could fight through it,” Leonard said. “I’m just out there playing, trying to make a play.”
As for the Trail Blazers, the team feels like it has something to prove after falling to the Spurs (4-1) in last year’s playoffs. Leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge said, “That’s our last time seeing them, when they beat up on us in the playoffs. Of course we want to play well against them, we want to defend our home court.”
Tonight, the Blazers return home from a five-game road trip. Portland went 3-2 on the trip and finished with a 95-85 win over the Pacers. The win ended a two-game slide for the Blazers, but the team struggled throughout. Aldridge had 19 points and 14 rebounds, but missed 15 of 23 shots. It was the third sub-par performance in a row from the team, who also lost to the Timberwolves (90-82) and Bulls (115-106) last week.
Now, the Trail Blazers have to focus on playing the Spurs at home. Point guard Damian Lillard said the team better be ready.
“It’s always tough coming off a road trip and having your first home game, but we’ve always played well against them in the regular season,” Lillard said. “It’s going to be a challenge like it always is.”
UPDATE: It looks like Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginobili are all out for the Spurs tonight. This might be a good one to lay off.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (RO9A3690) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)