Home Portland Trail Blazers Portland Trail Blazers finish strong in win over Spurs, 121-116

Portland Trail Blazers finish strong in win over Spurs, 121-116

Tonight we come into a game with two teams that are struggling mightily. Both the Spurs and the Blazers have dropped six of their last seven games and are hanging out together at the bottom of the Western Conference. Both teams are averaging 112 points per contest coming into tonight and both are ranked near the bottom of the league in defense.

The Blazers will be without the broken dam of defense known as Carmelo Anthony tonight. Scoring has not been an issue for the Blazers this year, they have plenty of guys that can score. They needed someone more like a Kenneth Faried who can provide the rebounding and interior defense they are missing with Zach Collins out.

I’ll be doing an in-depth analysis of how Anthony integrates with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the rest of the Blazers later in the road trip. I don’t want to overreact after one game. My main concern is that he takes away shots and development time away from Anfernee Simons. The Blazers need to be careful of that. Simons is part of the future and Anthony is not.

Plus, Anthony and Nassir Little play the same position. More development minutes gone. Just sayin’.

Portland Trail Blazers start out hot, yet again.

Once again the Blazers start out hot. Hassan Whiteside is active early abusing Trey Lyles and LaMarcus Aldridge for a quick eight points and some turnovers forced. I really do think Whiteside needs to be a bigger part of the offense. He’s more active on defense when he sees the ball on offense. He obviously should not take anything away from Dame or CJ, but he could be a legit third option for the Blazers. I know the Blazers want to play more with pace, but if they don’t

CJ looks like he is also finding his groove tonight as well. He’s made two quick three-pointers and hit a long two early. The three he missed early was only off by a little bit. His eight points and five assists are a great sign early.

The Spurs can’t handle the Blazers in a one on one situation so they switch to zone and give up two quick threes to Simons and Mario Hezonja. Blazes finish the quarter on an 18-4 run and are up 41-23.

This is an exciting start, but the Blazers have not really been able to blow out any team so far this year. They have had big leads and have lost big leads. They were up 19 against the Spurs a couple of weeks ago and a quarter later were down 19.

And in the second quarter, the Blazers extended the lead to 24 points, but then the Spurs start chipping it down. The combination of Patty Mills and Jakob Poeltl started the charge. Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan got into the mix too. There Blazers are just unable to get stops and put teams away. Again, Anthony is not going to help with this. I just know I’m upsetting all the Carmelo stans out there right now.

Gregg Popovich changes the Spurs offense and spreads the floor out. Running lots of back and cross cuts behind the Blazers bigs for easy buckets. So, naturally, the Blazers start following the cutters and what happens? There are wide-open threes for the Spurs to take and of course, they knock them down.

If it wasn’t for CJ being so hot they Blazers would have completely blown this 24 point lead and would be trailing the Spurs at halftime. CJ led the Blazers with 23 points in the first half. It’s really good to see McCollum clicking early. He’s had problems starting off hot during a game and then disappearing until garbage time. He came out not in the first quarter, struggled early in the second and instead of disappearing he kept attacking and got the flow going again.

The six turnovers at the half are pretty good for the Blazers, but they only forced four. That is a bit disconcerting. Dame’s shooting has continued to be a little bit on the cold side as well. He only has seven points at the half. Last time against the Spurs he had three at the half, so this isn’t too worrying.

Whiteside only had two points and zero rebounds after the first eight minutes of the game. Nassir Little knocked down a three. Loving the confidence from the rookie early in the game. He crashes the boards on almost all shot attempts, even when he doesn’t have a chance at the rebound. On the defensive side, I’d love for him to sneak out more and get some easy dunks. He can outrun and out jump most of the other guys on the floor.

Hezonja had a solid first half as well. His defense was meh, but he was consistent on offense.

Pop is going with Poeltl over Lyles to start the second half. This is a smart move by Pop. Poeltl was a beast on the boards and basically outhustled everyone. Rodney Hood starts off white-hot in the third and gets a quick seven points on a three, a cut, and a gorgeous post-move.

Lillard finally got a call on a three-point shot. It wasn’t much of a foul and probably should not have been called. This leads to Gregg Popovich getting ejected. Now the Spurs are going to be coached by either Tim Duncan or Becky Hammon for the rest of the game.

The Spurs will not go away. The Blazers have been hot to start third, not as hot as Pop, but DeRozan has found himself after only scoring two points in the first half. Aldridge found his groove against Whiteside and it involved facing him up from fifteen plus feet. Not exactly where Whiteside excels defensively.

It doesn’t matter who is guarding any of the Spurs right now. They are attacking the paint, getting to the line, and picking off inbound passes. They have outscored the Blazers 40-24 in the third quarter so far and now have a four-point lead. The Blazers all out of sorts on the floor at the moment. This is to be expected with this team. They don’t have anyone who can lockdown any other player on the floor. When the defense gets out of sorts they don’t have that defensive coach on the floor who can get players right.

Terry Stotts might need to look at a new defensive coach.

It also should go out to say that the Spurs took it up a notch on their defensive end in the third quarter too. They had three blocks, forced three turnovers, and outrebounded the Blazers by eight in the quarter. They finished the third on a 30-11 run after Pop got sent to the back for a drink.

To illustrate how badly the second half is going for the Blazers, during a four-on-one break led by Hezonja, it ends with the Blazers losing a jump ball. I don’t even know with this team. Their starters aren’t great defensively outside of Whiteside and then the bench might be the worst defensive unit in all of the league. Don’t quote me on that. I’ll run the numbers after the night wraps up.

The Blazers shot 73% in the first quarter and we knew that was going to fall as the game ran on. As of writing this the Blazers have missed their last 10 shots from the field and are now shooting 45% as a team. They are down by thirteen. The Spurs have scored 35 in the second and 38 in the third. Let’s see if they can get 40 in the fourth.

Spurs have done a great job extending out on Lillard in this game. They are forcing him to pass or to shoot from other spots on the floor. They will not let him get going from beyond the arc tonight. I love him attacking the paint and throwing up lobs to Whiteside. That is high percentage offense. Whiteside followed up that lob with a nice spinning hook in the middle of the paint.

Lillard is 1-8 from three and has had at least three blocks on layup attempts so far this game.

A big dunk by Little gets the Blazers within two, 109-111. On the other end, Whiteside blocks a reverse layup by DeRozan and then Little jumps way above everyone else for a rebound. This leads to CJ hitting a floater to tie the game up at 111. Whiteside and Little with their defense and hustle have been pulling the Blazers back into it in the fourth quarter. Whiteside has that one block on DeRozan but has changed three other shots and Little has been in on nearly every loose ball in the fourth.

A Rodney Hood cut, stop, and shot drops and he sinks a free throw to give the Blazers a three-point lead with just over a minute left in the game. Some free throws by Whiteside and Lillard iced the game. The Blazers took and held on to the lead by finishing out on a 27-7 run.

DeRozan had a good look at a three down five with about 20 seconds left and he decided to take it to the rim instead. For as good of a shooter as DeRozan is, it’s amazing to me he’s never developed a three.

CJ had 32 points and 7 assists, Dame had 22, 6, and 6, while Whiteside 21 and 12.

Random Thoughts

  • I need to go to San Antonio one day. Austin was a cool town, heard good things about SA.
  • During the halftime show, a bunch of Zumba class women performed at halftime. A lot of them were older and I admire their confidence for getting out there and performing like that. It was quite endearing.
  • Becky Hammon will be the first female head coach in the NBA.
  • I think Hammon was a bit slow on bringing Patty Mills into the game in the fourth. Blazes got some momentum and Mills sat. Mills has been a Blazer killer. Not complaining. Just an observation.

Next Up

The Blazers have Sunday off as they head up the road to Houston. The game is at 7:00 PM on NBATV.

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