Lillard’s 36 spoil Aldridge’s return as Blazers top Spurs
SAN ANTONIO (AP) The Portland Trail Blazers did not have a team meeting or scream at one another after suffering their ”worst loss” of the season.
The compacted NBA schedule makes it necessary to forget quickly. Portland understood that and it led to their ”best win of the year” just 24 hours after a blowout loss.
Damian Lillard scored 36 points and the Trail Blazers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-106 on Wednesday night, spoiling LaMarcus Aldridge’s return from a health scare.
C.J. McCollum added 26 points for Portland, which was coming off a 23-point loss in New Orleans on Tuesday.
”That had to be probably our best win of the year,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ”To beat a team like San Antonio on the road. Not only that, but how we won. I thought it was one of our better games as far as staying focused throughout the game.”
Portland needed that focus in an emotional game for San Antonio.
Aldridge returned after missing two games with a minor heart arrhythmia. He was cleared Wednesday morning and does not have any playing restrictions.
”I feel good,” Aldridge said. ”It felt good to be back out there. We didn’t get a win, so that’s kind of tough to deal with. (But) happy to be out there with the teammates, just be playing again.”
Kawhi Leonard had 34 points to lead San Antonio (52-15), which had won 11 of 12 entering the game but fell one game behind Golden State for the league’s best record.
Aldridge had 19 points and seven rebounds, including nine points in the final quarter.
”I felt like my rhythm was good early and then I think my touch was off around the rim. That kind of bothered me,” Aldridge said. ”I definitely played better at the end. It’s the first game back. I’ll get better.”
Trailing 104-97 with 1:45 remaining, San Antonio closed within two points as Aldridge scored five consecutive points on a layup and a powerful dunk that led to a three-point play. After Leonard missed a short runner, McCollum made a pair of free throws to end the Spurs’ streak and give Portland a 106-102 lead.
Patty Mills then hit a 3-pointer from the right corner off a feed from Leonard, but Lillard made four straight free throws to seal the victory for the Trail Blazers.
After shooting 30 percent from the field against New Orleans, Portland rebounded to 48 percent against San Antonio.
”We talked about it, because it’s something you can’t just say, `Aw, we got beat,”’ Lillard said. ”You’ve got to address the things that we didn’t do well and the things we’ve got to do better if we want to have this run we’re trying to put together. But that was it. We didn’t have a big intervention, nothing like that.”
The Blazers (30-37) moved two games behind the Denver Nuggets (32-35) for the final playoff berth in the West.
Portland closed the third quarter on a 9-3 run in taking an 82-80 lead to set up their fourth-quarter heroics.
The Spurs struggled to stop Lillard and McCollum, who shot a combined 20 for 38. The duo also had four assists each.
”Lillard and McCollum were super, but I thought they executed their offense great,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. ”We just didn’t guard them tonight as well as we needed to.”
Trail Blazers: Lillard has scored 30 points in six of 11 games since returning from the All-Star break. … Portland was without F Ed Davis (left shoulder), C Festus Ezeli (left knee) and F Evan Turner (right hand). … The Blazers improved to 7-4 when Lillard, McCollum, Noah Vonleh, Jusuf Nurkic and Maurice Harkless start. … Portland is 80-83 against San Antonio overall after snapping a five-game skid against the Spurs.
Spurs: Aldridge has scored 1,000 points for a 10th straight season, joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as the only active players with that streak. … G Tony Parker missed his fourth straight game with back stiffness. The 34-year-old has missed 16 games this season after sitting out 10 games last year. … Leonard has scored in double figures in 94 straight games dating to Jan. 14, 2016. He has scored 30-plus points in 25 games this season.
GOOD TO BE BACK
Aldridge said he felt good after having to exit his previous game while complaining of feeling odd against Oklahoma City.
”This is something that I’ve dealt with since my first year,” Aldridge said. ”There’s been a protocol put in place that if I felt like something changed, we’d do some research. I went and saw some people.”
Aldridge was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – an abnormality that can cause a rapid heartbeat – as a rookie in 2007. He missed the final seven games of his first season while he was with Portland and also was held out 10 days in the preseason in 2011.
Aldridge finished 9 for 24 from the field and played 32 minutes. He made his first two attempts, a 17-foot jumper and a 21-footer, drawing loud cheers from the sold-out crowd.
”We were a little worried, a little concerned,” San Antonio veteran Manu Ginobili said. ”Those type of issues is not a hand, an ankle, a knee, something like that. Pretty important organ (the heart). When we heard he was fine, healthy and ready to be back with the team, it was a great feeling besides the point of playing today or not. The important thing is he’s healthy.”
Trail Blazers: At Atlanta on Saturday night.
Spurs: At Memphis on Saturday night.