The San Antonio Spurs continued rolling against the elite teams they struggled against early in the season, using a balanced attack to beat the Portland Trail Blazers for their eighth straight victory.
Patty Mills scored 15 points, Tim Duncan had 10 points and 11 rebounds in limited minutes, and San Antonio trailed for only 11 seconds late in the first quarter of a 103-90 victory over Portland on Wednesday night.
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Since the All-Star break, the Spurs (48-16) have beaten the Trail Blazers twice and also defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago and Miami. They were 1-11 in the season’s first half against the East’s top two teams and remaining top five in the West.
"We’re getting a rhythm," San Antonio point guard Tony Parker said. "You don’t want to peak too early, but we’re playing good basketball. Hopefully we can keep it going and stay healthy. The most important, like everybody knows, is the playoffs."
Damian Lillard had 23 points for Portland (42-23), which lost LaMarcus Aldridge to a bruised back early in the second half.
Aldridge’s status is unknown after X-rays on his back were negative. He was taken to the locker room and X-ray room in a wheelchair.
San Antonio’s bench outscored Portland’s 46-23, enabling coach Gregg Popovich to limit Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili to less than 30 minutes.
The Spurs’ Big 3 tied Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers for second all-time as a trio in total victories (490) and games played (663) as a trio.
"It’s remarkable," Ginobili said. "We were not thinking about that in the game and I guess we’re going to win a few more. But even if you didn’t tell me that stat, we know we’re in a very unique position and situation. Having played together for 12 seasons with the same coach; it doesn’t happen very often in the league and with that stat you can tell. Very proud of what we’ve accomplished; what we’re accomplishing."
The trio achieved the feat using the same formula San Antonio has employed this season — aggressive defense and ball movement.
Danny Green added 14 points for the Spurs, Ginobili scored 13, Kawhi Leonard had 12, and Tiago Splitter had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
San Antonio had 21 assists and only 12 turnovers.
The Spurs held the Trail Blazers to 38.6 shooting and was 4 for 21 on 3s.
"I thought defense was good," Popovich said. "Obviously they missed LaMarcus in the second half. So that was a really tough break for them. I hope he’s going to come back quickly. He’s a hell of player and nobody wants to see that."
Portland opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run after trailing by as many as 17 in the first half, but lost Aldridge 43 seconds into the quarter.
Aldridge drove the lane and rose for a running, 6-foot jumper, but tumbled backward after having his right knee hit Aron Baynes’ side. Unable to brace himself, Aldridge took the brunt of the fall on his left hip. He remained on the court for 3 minutes, grabbing his lower back before being helped off the court by teammates.
"When a guy takes a tough fall like that, when you’re airborne, you just don’t know what can happen when you land," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "The longer he stayed down, you just don’t know."
With Aldridge unable to continue, Thomas Robinson replaced him and made the ensuing free throw.
Aldridge finished with 14 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
With Aldridge out, fellow All-Star Lillard took over in the third. The speedy point guard scored 10 points, hitting a pair of 3s and throwing down a hard dunk while shooting 4 for 9 in the quarter. His second 3 pulled Portland within 61-55 with 5:45 left in third, but the Trail Blazers got no closer.
"We played small," Stotts said. "There were a couple of points in the half that I thought we were climbing back in, but San Antonio, in beginning of the fourth, hits two 3s right when we’re in the thick of it. It was tough to get over the hump."
San Antonio was 3 for 4 on 3s to open the fourth quarter for a 79-64 lead and cruised to victory.
Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum scored 13 points each for Portland.
"The aggressor in every fight wins," Matthews said. "I don’t know if you’ve ever in a fight before, but the aggressor in any fight wins."
NOTES: Portland G Mo Williams did not play after straining his right hip in the second quarter of the Blazers’ game Tuesday in Memphis. Williams was injured while driving around a screen for an 8-foot jumper. Williams finished with four points in 11 minutes. He is averaging nine points and 4.5 assists as the Trail Blazers’ primary sub. … Popovich yelled at official David Guthrie a minute into the game over a perceived missed call, prompting Stotts to smile and tease his counterpart. `’If he’s going to start yelling now, so am I," Stotts said.