The Portland Trail Blazers may have defeated the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week, but Robin Lopez was lost in the process.
Thomas Robinson looks to pick up the slack again Friday night when the Northwest Division-leading Trail Blazers return to San Antonio for the first time since being ousted in last season’s playoffs.
Portland (20-6) was eliminated in five games by the Spurs in the second round and was outscored by an average of 19.5 points in those defeats, falling 104-82 in the decisive game at AT&T Center.
The Trail Blazers opened this season’s series with a 108-95 victory Monday, though any celebration was muted since Lopez left in the third quarter with a broken right hand. The starting center later revealed on his official Twitter account that he’s out for six to seven weeks.
So far, Robinson has softened the blow, scoring 15 points with 16 rebounds in his first career start to spur Wednesday’s 104-97 win over Milwaukee. He had seven points and three boards against San Antonio after appearing in one of the previous 12 games – a 2-minute, 46-second stint.
"I was just happy to see him get that opportunity because I know how hard he works and how positive he is, being that he hasn’t played a lot this year," guard Damian Lillard said.
Lillard is averaging 26.3 points while sinking half of his 24 3-pointers over the past four games. He connected on 4 of 7 from beyond the arc while scoring 29 against the Bucks after finishing with 23 points and a career-high 10 rebounds versus San Antonio (17-9).
Lillard scored 19.8 points per game against the Spurs in the playoffs but missed 19 of 23 from long range.
San Antonio has dropped four of six, losing 117-116 in triple overtime to Memphis on Wednesday after Manu Ginobili shot an airball in the final seconds.
"We fought hard," guard Danny Green said. "We were down 20 for most of the first half; came back. They went on another run in the third quarter; came back. We showed a lot of character. It’s going to take awhile for us to recover from this, but we’ve bounced back from tougher situations."
Green is looking to build on a season-high 25 points, while Kawhi Leonard will reportedly miss his second straight game with a bruised right hand after having 21 points and nine rebounds at Portland.
Tony Parker could be out for the seventh time in eight games with a nagging hamstring injury, increasing Ginobili’s playing time.
The 37-year-old guard had 21 points, eight assists and eight rebounds against the Grizzlies after a back injury forced him to sit out Monday.
The injuries feed into coach Gregg Popovich’s reputation for playing it safe and resting his aging stars in the hopes of having them prepared for the playoffs – a strategy that led to an NBA title last season.
He’s used 14 starting lineups this season, tying New York for the most in the league. San Antonio used eight combinations after 26 games last season, finishing with 30.
"Regardless who’s on the floor, we gotta bring it," Green said. "We gotta continue to win games. We put ourselves in a little hole here. We know what it takes. We trust one through 15 to get it done, and guys have to step up."
San Antonio is 46-16 since its last three-game skid from Jan. 26-29.