Spurs-Trail Blazers Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t need Brandon Roy to defeat the

San Antonio Spurs in late December. The Trail Blazers are hoping

for a similar result should Roy be unavailable when the teams meet

Thursday night at the Rose Garden.

Portland (29-22), which is aiming for a sweep of the three-game

season series, has defeated San Antonio (28-19) four consecutive

times and five of six after dropping the previous 12 meetings

between the teams. One of those wins was the first game missed this

season by Roy, who is averaging a team-high 23.1 points with 5.0

assists and 4.6 rebounds.

Roy was unable to play Dec. 23 due to a sore shoulder, but

second-year guard Jerryd Bayless made his first career start and

scored a career-high 31 points with seven assists as the Trail

Blazers won 98-94 in San Antonio.

Roy has now missed eight straight games with a strained right

hamstring, and his return could be delayed until Saturday when

Portland hosts the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bayless has played well while starting the last five games,

averaging 14.6 points on 49.1 percent shooting, but the Trail

Blazers are 3-5 since Roy was injured Jan. 20 against Philadelphia

and have fallen to eighth place in the Western Conference.

“We think about it every day,” LaMarcus Aldridge said after

scoring 27 points with 12 rebounds in Wednesday’s 118-105 loss at

Utah. “We know that every game is important and are trying to fight

and get back up in the standings.”

While Portland must prepare to take the court again without its

star guard, Tony Parker might rejoin the Spurs’ lineup after

missing the last three games with a sprained left ankle.

Parker, who had 16 points and four assists in the Dec. 23 loss

to the Trail Blazers, sprained his left ankle in the second quarter

of a 96-84 loss at the Rose Garden on Nov. 6 – the Spurs’ third

straight loss in Portland. The three-time All-Star missed four of

the next five games.

Just as Bayless has performed admirably in a fill-in role for

Portland, George Hill has played well as Parker’s backup for San

Antonio.

The second-year guard matched a career high with 23 points and

had a career-best nine assists as the Spurs – who play 23 of their

final 35 games on the road – opened their season-high eight-game

trip with a 115-113 victory at Sacramento on Wednesday.

“George is probably the most improved player in the whole

league,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “From his rookie year

last year to this year he’s starting to get confident and played

well at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be a really fine

player for us.”

Tim Duncan has been a fine player for years. Named a starter to

his 12th All-Star game last week, Duncan is more concerned with

getting his team back on track after it lost six of nine heading

into the trip.

“This is really important because of how bad we have played so

far,” said Duncan, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds in

Wednesday’s win. “We’re very up and down, losing a lot of games on

the road and at home against teams that we should have beaten.”

Duncan is averaging 21.1 points and 10.7 rebounds in 24 career

games in Portland. He won’t have to face centers Greg Oden or Joel

Przybilla, who both suffered season-ending knee injuries, but

veteran Juwan Howard has been a solid replacement for the

injury-riddled Blazers, averaging 8.3 boards in his last eight

games.