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
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