Blazers drop tough home loss to Spurs, 125-104

by Kevin Nesgoda

A noon tip-off on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day saw the Blazers host the Spurs without two key starters (CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic), and San Antonio took full advantage. The game was was closer than the final 125-104 scoreline indicated, but Dame’s 35 and Hood’s 21 just weren’t enough to stop lights-out shooting from the Spurs.


Photo via Trail Blazers (used with permission)

Photo via Trail Blazers (used with permission)

Lineups

Portland: Damian Lillard, Rodney Hood, Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., Enes Kanter

San Antonio: Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, DeMar DeRozan, Keldon Johnson, LaMarcus Aldridge

Game Recap

First Quarter

Rodney Hood came out hot in his starting spot—replacing CJ McCollum, who is out for a week or so with a sprained foot. Hood had seven points halfway through the quarter.

LaMarcus Aldridge made four of his first six shots in his return to Portland, but he wasn’t the only former Blazer on the court for the Spurs. Patty Mills checked in and hit a three to start his day.

It’s hard not to think about how much fun a Dame-and-Aldridge-centric offense could have been with a scorer like DeMar DeRozan on the court, too. His high screens let the Spurs get downhill speed going into the lane.

Near the end of the quarter, Dame had a hard foul goin to the rim and came up clutching his shoulder in pain. Jakob Poeltl sort of fell on Dame on his way down, but the letter 0 shook it off and continued to play, attacking and getting fouled by Poeltl on the next possession.

With the Spurs clicking on offense (61% shooting, DeRozan and Aldridge both with eight points), Gregg Popovich’s guys took a 32-28 lead to end the first.

Second Quarter

The game got scrappy to start the second, and San Antonio’s guards were creating and hitting shots. Harry Giles had a diving offensive rebound that Carmelo Anthony converted into a smooth three.

Dame was named Western Conference Player of the Week during the second, while he and the starters quelled a Spurs lead halfway through the quarter.

A pair of bad calls going the Spurs’ way helped them claim a 59-54 lead at the half, aided by their 58% shooting (including 7/13 from deep).

Third Quarter

The best highlight of the third quarter was Enes Kanter passing the ball straight out of bounds with zero pressure after a defensive board, reminding us that even the simplest tasks in life can be difficult.

The Spurs took a 10-point lead four minutes in, but Hood immediately responded with a CJ-esque fadeaway and-one.

DJJ stepped up big in the third quarter with a flying block on LMA, an and-one putback, and a highlight-tape dunk.

A quick six points from Dame cut the lead to three before RoCo picked up his fourth foul with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Melo’s pull-up jumper gave the Blazers a two-point lead with just over two minutes remaining, but the Spurs retained it promptly and took a five-point lead into the final period.

Fourth Quarter

The Spurs opened up a 13-point lead to start the fourth behind an 8-0 run. Rodney, Anfernee Simons, and Melo hit consecutive threes to break the run, but Patty Mills hit another trey (hit fifth of the night from seven attempts) to keep the lead in double-digits.

With nine minutes left, the score was 98-91 Spurs. Two and a half minutes later, Terry Stotts called a timeout with the score at 108-91. The lead was built by missed Lillard drives, missed rotation threes, and Rudy Gay hitting shots.

Not even an eight-point Lillard spurt could keep the Blazers in it. Gay and Murray essentially killed the game with back-to-back threes to make it 116-99.

Final Thoughts

This was classic midseason Blazers. There are excuses—CJ and Nurk are out, of course—but this was still a game the Blazers could have won. The bench suffered without Rodney, and 20-plus points from four different Spurs (DeRozan, Aldridge, Mills, and Poeltl) is a recipe for disaster.

This is no time for excuses, though. We need to win, especially with key Western Conference opponents coming up (Grizzlies x2, Thunder, and Rockets) in the rest of January.

Player(s) of the Game

Rodney Hood stepped up into his starting role with 21 points on 9/14 shooting; while Carmelo Anthony had a solid bench performance, with 14 points and 2/3 from behind the arc.

Next Up

The Blazers will play their first of two games against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night at 7pm PT.

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