Portland Trail Blazers 98, San Antonio Spurs 90: Road weary Spurs can’t steal one from Portland

by

For the first time this season, the Spurs have dropped back-to-back games. As down as this Portland Trail Blazers team has been this season, playing back-to-back road games in Salt Lake City and Portland, two of the tougher away venues in the league, was never going to be easy. Portland rookie Damian Lillard — who torched the Spurs for 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists — made sure of that as the Blazers won 98-90 at the Rose Garden.

The Spurs had no business being in this game. In fact, San Antonio shouldn’t have had a chance to win either game of their most recent back-to-back set. Outside of the first quarter and the end of the third / beginning of the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, the Spurs did not play good basketball in the last two games. The entire Portland game on Thursday night was rough from start to finish.

That said, San Antonio should be commended for playing through what was obvious fatigue, and finding ways to actually have a chance to beat the Blazers. There were far too many mistakes to allow San Antonio to come away with a victory.

The Spurs continued their troubles with turnovers in the first half at the Rose Garden, coughing the ball up 10 times before halftime. That was a problem for San Antonio, as was their 3-point shooting. Not so much that they weren’t making them, although they only hit one in the first half, but that they weren’t taking them at all.

The Spurs shot 1-5 from the 3-point line in the first half and seemed to fall prey to the same trap they entice opponents to fall into. San Antonio settled for a lot of mid-range shots. The Spurs appeared to get to the rim at a normal pace in the first half (24 first half points in the paint), but instead of kicking out for perimeter shots, they over-dribbled and settled for shots in the Bermuda Triangle of offensive efficiency.

In the second half, the perimeter shooting improve (5-14 from 3 in the second half), but the turnovers did not. San Antonio gave away possession another nine times in the third and fourth quarters, and gifted Portland 17 points off of those turnovers. The biggest effect of those turnovers was pointed out by the Express-News’ Jeff McDonald on Twitter: The Blazers took 16 more shots in the game than the Spurs, in large part because of all San Antonio’s wasted possessions.

On the most basic level, the Spurs only needed to hit four shots to tie this game. You think they could’ve done that with 16 more field goal attempts? Most likely, yes. That’s making a quarter of your shots in a game where the Spurs shot above 45%. That’s breaking things down to its simplest level, but the idea still holds true. The Spurs would’ve had a very real chance to win this game had they not turnover the ball over so much.

This is a long season. The Spurs just played their 15th road game out of 24 contests. Many of the turnovers committed by the Spurs were uncharacteristic. Two were diagonal passes that sailed over a teammate’s head and into the crowd (there was almost a third as well). San Antonio registered offensive ratings of 101.1 and 94.7 in the last two games, both performanes below their season rating of 106.4.

Chalking this game up as a scheduling loss demeans the excellent performance put on by the Blazers, who, besides Lillard, got big contributions from  LaMarcus Aldridge, Luke Babbitt and J.J. Hickson. But it’s not a game you can learn too much from either. Instead, it’s just another piece of a very large puzzle that plays out over an 82-game season. Just think of it as one of those blue sky pieces that you forget about and fit it in later. It’s not that important.

Advanced statistics courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

  • STIJL

    On the bright side: Spurs garnished 31 defensive rebounds: Splitter got heavy minutes and contributed well: Could have been a blowout but Spurs didn’t lay down.

    For Portland, Lillard is going to be special.

  • Len

    Spurs usually have a tough time in the Rose Garden. I’m looking forward to our road warriors getting some home cooking.

    And BTW, Manu may be a step slower than we’ve seen all these years but he is starting to get his shot back. So there’s that.

  • Titletown99030507d

    If fatigue is responsible for Manu’s repeated bad passes, Neal stepping out of bounds on crucial 3 point shots again, Parker playing bad defense, and Tiago missing easy under the rim shots he should have scored at least 20 points, and Timmy not so good himself on FG%, then they better get some rest and lots of it. Terrible performance. The heart was there but the execution lacked. Cant stand the way they schedule this team every year. Worn out on the road then they give them back to backs against good teams. Thanks Stern.

  • Andrew G

    I hope for his sake he doesn’t get injured. Read a good article on Grantland about the culture at Portland and how bad they are at rehabbing their injured players, then throwing them back out onto the court when they’re still half crippled. See: Brandon Roy, Greg Oden.