The Portland Trail Blazers knew they caught a break: Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were too hurt to play, and Tony Parker was a surprise late scratch, too.
Portland took advantage. Yet, it still wasn’t easy.
Andre Miller scored 26 points and the Blazers, who trailed late despite San Antonio playing without four starters, rallied in the final minutes to hand the slumping and banged-up Spurs their fourth consecutive loss, 100-92 on Monday night.
”It was a trap game once we got to the arena,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said.
The Blazers beat the NBA’s winningest team for the second time in three days, this time with Parker, Ginobili, Duncan and Antonio McDyess all sidelined. Parker (left knee contusion) is the most likely to be back Thursday against Boston, and McDyess (back) could also play after the 36-year-old essentially got the night off to rest for the playoffs.
Duncan (ankle sprain) and Ginobili (left quad contusion) are the question marks. Ginobili, who left Sunday’s loss at Memphis early after being hurt, said he felt ”much better” while jogging past reporters before the game. But his status and Duncan’s remain unknown.
Gerald Wallace added 14 points for Portland and hit a crucial 3-pointer with 2:02 left, capping a quick 7-0 burst that put the Blazers back ahead. It was the finishing touch on a 15-1 run after letting the undermanned Spurs lead by as much as eight in the fourth.
”We ain’t going to throw it out, because if we would have lost, we would’ve looked back like they didn’t have their players and that was a game we needed,” Miller said. ”So we’re trying to finish off and get some momentum going into the playoffs.”
They also needed it to help their playoff jockeying. The Blazers (43-31) kept their hold on sixth place and are 1 1/2 games behind Denver for fifth.
The Spurs, meanwhile, are slipping.
George Hill led San Antonio with 27 points. The Spurs are on their longest slide all season, and their once-commanding lead in the West is shrinking with the Los Angeles Lakers surging.
San Antonio had a seven-game lead over the Lakers a week ago. But after the Spurs lost on all three stops on a road trip, and returned home to host the Blazers short-handed, the Lakers trail by just 3 1/2 games.
The Spurs (57-17) have eight games left.
”It’s life. You have to deal with it and figure out how to get better,” Hill said. ”No one’s hanging their head or thinking we’re not as good as we’ve been all year.”
Wesley Matthews scored 19 points, and Nicolas Batum had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers. Portland led throughout the first half, but lost the lead late in the third quarter when Danny Green hit a 3-pointer.
Green – who had played all of 14 minutes this season – followed by stealing the ball from Brandon Roy and coasting in for a wide-open dunk. After trailing by seven at halftime, the Spurs entered the fourth quarter ahead 72-67.
But Portland pulled together. Miller scored 11 points in the fourth while the Spurs missed seven of 10 3-point attempts, shooting themselves out of the game.
”If we could have added a little bit of (shooting) to the competitiveness and heart they showed, we would have been in great shape,” Popovich said.
Rookie Tiago Splitter, starting again in place of Duncan, added 14 points for the Spurs.
Popovich wouldn’t guess when Duncan or Ginobili might return. Sitting McDyess, meanwhile, was just playing it safe with the playoffs imminent.
”Money time is approaching,” Popovich said before the game.
Notes: Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown and assistant Hank Egan, both former Spurs assistants, attended the game. … The Blazers won the season series 3-1. … The Spurs lost for only the fourth time at home this season.