Trail Blazers-Spurs Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of San Antonio Spurs

center Tim Duncan’s absence this past weekend to keep a late season

surge going.

As they try to bounce back from their fourth defeat in 13 games,

the Blazers could face an even more short-handed Spurs team Monday

night.

Because of a bruised left thigh, San Antonio guard Manu

Ginobili’s status is uncertain for the rematch at the AT&T

Center.

The NBA-best Spurs (57-16) have lost a season-high three

straight since Duncan sprained his left ankle in a win over Golden

State last Monday, and they played without Ginobili for much of the

second half of Sunday’s 111-104 loss at Memphis.

“We don’t have time to worry about (injuries),” point guard

Tony Parker said. “Timmy is not coming back anytime soon, so we

just have to keep playing and make sure we pound that rock.

Hopefully, it will go our way.”

George Hill tried to keep his team in the game by matching a

career high with 30 points off the bench. Parker added 20 for San

Antonio, which squandered a slim lead late.

“I was really proud of them,” said coach Gregg Popovich, who

was ejected in the second quarter. “We’ve had three tough road

games. They pulled together pretty well and gave it their best

shot. They just came out on the short end.”

The Spurs also came out on the short end Friday in Portland,

where Nicolas Batum scored at the buzzer to give the Blazers a

98-96 victory. Batum and Andre Miller finished with 21 points

apiece, and Ginobili had 21 for San Antonio, which committed three

turnovers in the final 40 seconds.

That win was Portland’s fifth in six games, but it followed with

a 99-90 loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday. The Blazers (42-31), who

matched a season high with their fourth straight road loss,

couldn’t take advantage of Gerald Wallace’s season-high 40 points

as LaMarcus Aldridge was the only other player in double figures

with 20.

With the loss, Portland’s lead on sixth place in the West

remained one-half game over New Orleans.

“I’d rather take the win than take the points,” Wallace told the

team’s website. “I think it was a good game, but we just had some

crucial moments where we didn’t execute and things didn’t go our

way.”

The Blazers are attempting to avoid their first five-game road

losing streak since Feb. 4-25, 2009, but will likely need better

shooting than in their 95-78 loss at the AT&T Center on Dec.

12.

The Spurs took advantage of a 37.9-percent performance to snap a

five-game skid in the series. Hill scored a team-best 22 points,

and Duncan grabbed 13 rebounds in his 1,000th regular-season

contest.

When the teams met again Feb. 1 in Portland, Aldridge scored a

then-career high 40 points in a 99-86 victory.

The Blazers have prevailed in two of their last three games in

San Antonio after losing 11 in a row there.

The Spurs are seeking their fifth consecutive home win and 27th

in 28 games.