Blazers outshoot Spurs in the fourth, win 125-117

by Kevin Nesgoda

After that beatdown on Tuesday night to the Denver Nuggets, the Blazers have returned home to play the San Antonio Spurs. The two teams haven’t played in a couple months and they had a good couple of matchups in San Antonio. It looked like each team was going to blow out the other team in each contest, but somehow, the game was not decided until the final minute of the game.

The Blazers ended up being quiet on the trade front. There was a rumor that a Karl-Anthony Towns and Jusuf Nurkic deal might have been in the works, but you know how rumors are. The Blazers only ended up moving Skal Labissiere to the Hawks for cash. This signals to me that both Nurk and Zach Collins are close to being back for the Blazers.

In the first five minutes of the game, only Trevor Ariza was the sole starter to not score a point. He had a few good looks, but the shots were short each time. CJ McCollum came out strong and had seven early points. The last couple of games I wished he had started out stronger to take some pressure off Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside.

That Dame and Whiteside two-man game is getting better week after week. I’m hoping Whiteside comes back next season on a reasonable deal to either start for Nurk or come off the bench or maybe start them together.

LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be a huge issue tonight. He usually is against Portland. He has made a few threes and coming up with big rebounds and feeding other guys making threes. This gets the Spurs an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter, 35-27.

The Blazers have not had very good ball movement so far in the game and they are not covering the three very well at all. The best pass of the game so far has been when Carmelo Anthony attacked the basket, got double-teamed, and found CJ in the corner for a wide-open three. There have been other times when they could have made a pass, but instead tried to force a shot or were late on the pass.

The Blazers’ shots are close to going in. Can’t count how many shots have been halfway down in the first 14 minutes of the game and only to pop back out.

San Antonio is really moving the ball well and Portland is having trouble tracking it. Portland seems flat and they shouldn’t. The starters haven’t played in almost 48 hours.

It might be safe to say that Gary Trent Jr. has passed Anfernee Simons as the Blazers’ best bench player. I type that and half a second later Simons hits a gorgeous step-back three. CJ then adds a basket and the Blazers are only down, 41-39 now. It seems to be a thing between these teams to not quiet blow the other one out.

I know a lot of people aren’t big fans of Caleb Swanigan, but I love his hustle. He’s pure basketball chaos.

Mario Hezonja is getting minutes tonight over Nassir Little and I don’t like this move. Mario has been a net negative on both sides of the ball this year and Little has been improving in big strides the last couple of weeks. Little needs these minutes in big spots as the playoffs come around and also for next year. I love Mario, but he has lost a lot of confidence. Portland needs to send him down to the YMCA 50 and older league to run down some Portland gym rats and get that confidence back.

Oh, I forgot about the ankle sprain for Little. That will explain it.

The Blazers have been doing a good job on DeMar DeRozan tonight. He’s about the only Spur the Blazers are guarding well. Trey Lyles has four of five from three tonight and that’s all you need to know about the Blazers defensive effort tonight.

Trevor Ariza gets a layup with a few seconds left in the half and the Blazers are down 60-59 going into the break.

Into the third quarter, the Blazers are 7-22 from three and the Spurs are 9-18. The Spurs are closing out hard on pretty much all of the Blazers’ three-point shooters. When Dame goes to shoot a three LMA or Lyles is out there in his face and forcing him into tougher shots. Stotts needs to runs some sets that gets the lankier guys away from Dame on his shot. Let him pull up on Dejounte Murray or Patty Mills. Force the better matchups.

The third has been such a back and forth match up. There have been combined 27 ties and lead changes so far. The defensive effort has gone away and the teams are just scoring back to back on each other.

The Blazers bench had a great first half and they only have two points off a Swanigan layup.

DeRozan has also picked it up and now has eighteen points. The Spurs push their lead up to six, 92-86 after three. Blazers had a hard time scoring at the end of the quarter. They didn’t look confident at all on the offensive end. Dame couldn’t get free looks, but his passes to open teammates were off.

A Melo three and a CJ three-point play and the Blazers are right back in this thing. Caleb Swanigan hits a nice 17 footer and the Blazers are down a bucket. Patty Mills and Derrick White are working to keep the Blazers at bay, but Gary Trent Jr. knocks down another three to give the Blazers their first lead in a while.

Carmelo Anthony had been shooting long most of the game, he made the adjustment and the ball is not even hitting the rim right now. It’s finding the bottom of the net. And man, what can you say about Trent. He’s been hot lately.

Lillard hits a big three that pushes the Blazers lead to six, forcing Gregg Popovich to call a timeout. Moda is loud and loving the game. I could watch these two teams play all year. It’d be hard for this to end up being a seven-game series in April, but I’d be all for it.

Gary Trent Jr. hits a bit three from the corner to put the Blazers up nine points. The Blazers now have two bench players in double scoring for the first time since March of 1974. Okay, it’s been sooner than that. Trent then adds a couple more threes, he has 18 on six of seven shooting from three.

Lillard 26, Whiteside had 17-23-4, CJ had 19, Trent with 18, Melo with 20 and Ant with 10.

The Blazers play Utah tomorrow night in Salt Lake.

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