Spurs-Trail Blazers Preview
A major strength in recent years, the San Antonio Spurs’ annual rodeo trip has been a borderline disaster so far this February.
Looking to snap a three-game skid and win their first contest since the All-Star break, the Spurs travel Wednesday night to face a struggling Portland Trail Blazers team that’s hoping to have LaMarcus Aldridge back on the floor.
San Antonio had the league’s best road record on its way to winning the NBA title last season, but it’s looked anything but comfortable away from home in 2014-15. The Spurs (34-22) are 14-15 outside of the AT&T Center and average only 97.0 points compared with 104.3 per game at home.
After going 21-6 on their rodeo trips over the past three seasons, this one has the Spurs itching to get back home. They’re 2-4 with three games left in what will be a 28-day stretch between games on their own floor.
Following losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State, San Antonio tied its lowest-scoring output of the season and committed a season-high 22 turnovers while falling 90-81 to Utah on Monday.
"I thought we took a lot of contested shots that we didn’t need to take," coach Gregg Popovich said. "I don’t think we played very smart in that regard."
Portland (36-19) is also winless since the break, falling at Utah on Friday and blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead in a 98-92 loss to Memphis on Sunday.
The Trail Blazers have lost 11 of 17, dropping them from the second-best record in the NBA on Jan. 11 to the sixth-best record in the Western Conference – although they still have a sizable lead in the Northwest Division.
"We need every win," Wesley Matthews said. "Every game is important. Every game is even more so important when we are playing teams that are above us or next to us."
Aldridge did not play in Sunday’s defeat due to a right thumb sprain – he’s already been playing with an injured ligament in his left thumb – and it is unclear if the four-time All-Star will play Wednesday.
The Spurs certainly wouldn’t miss him. Aldridge scored 23 points with 14 rebounds in Portland’s 108-95 home win over San Antonio on Dec. 15, then tallied 32 points and 16 boards in a triple-overtime victory road victory Dec. 19. Damian Lillard, whose 27.3-point career average in this series is his best against any opponent, scored a career-high 43 in that matchup.
Aldridge and Lillard combined for 47 points but six Spurs scored in double figures as San Antonio won 110-96 at home Jan. 16.
Meyers Leonard figures to get the start again if Aldridge can’t go, and while he scored 11 points and hit three 3-pointers against the Grizzlies, he also committed five fouls in 17 minutes.
This will be the Spurs’ first look at a Blazers team with Arron Afflalo, who had eight points in 24 minutes off the bench in his Portland debut Sunday.
"Obviously, I was a little passive," Afflalo said. "Out of respect for my teammates, you want to come out there and feel the game a little bit. But I see the potential, I see the opportunity there.
"I’ll learn from Game 1 and become more aggressive with confidence moving into Game 2."
He’s been just that and more this season against the Spurs, totaling 52 points in a pair of losses while with Denver.