Spurs F Aldridge in hot streak as former Portland mates arrive (Dec 30, 2016)

BY AP • December 29, 2016

San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge looks to keep a recent torrid shooting stretch going against his former team when the Spurs battle the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Aldridge scored 27 points hit 10 of his 12 shots from the floor on Wednesday in the Spurs' 119-98 win over hapless Phoenix. That sterling offensive performance followed up a 15-for-20 shooting, season-high 33-point performance on Sunday in a victory against Chicago.

"Yeah, I've been in a good rhythm and just playing with some confidence," Aldridge said. My shot is going in and my teammates are doing a good job of finding me out there, so they make it easy on me. I'm just trying to be more involved. I'm trying to look for my shot more and it's been paying off."

The Spurs (26-6) won on Wednesday despite the absence of leading scorer and two-time defending NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, who was scratched due to illness just before the game. It was the first game Leonard missed this season.

Leonard is expected back in the lineup for Friday's game versus Portland. The Spurs have won three straight games and eight of their past 10 contests.

San Antonio continues to be one of the best and most consistent teams in the NBA. There are stretches in games when the Spurs seem to lose some of their focus -- like in the win against the Suns when they gave up 65 first-half points -- but San Antonio usually finds a way to get back in the groove. The Spurs allowed just 34 points in the second half on Wednesday as their defense went to work.

"The whole game for us was picking up the defensive pressure in the third and fourth quarters," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "That's what you have to have to be a good basketball team, so I was pleased with that. A lot of our passes were ridiculous and we were not very solid with the ball tonight in a lot of situations, which was disappointing."

Portland heads to the Alamo City off a 126-121 win at home against Sacramento on Wednesday that allowed the Trail Blazers (14-20) to end a six-game losing streak.

"It was good to get off the schneid," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said after the win over the Kings. "We played a pretty solid game, start to finish. Our defense was solid."

Portland has lost 10 of it past 12 outings and has been forced to play its past two games without star guard Damian Lillard, who is nursing an ankle injury and whose availability is listed as day-to-day.

"We just need wins right now," Portland forward Mason Plumlee said. "Home, road, whatever."

Guard C.J. McCollum had a team-high 20 points for the Trail Blazers in the win versus the Kings while Maurice Harkless (12 points), Plumlee (12 points, 14 rebounds), Allen Crabbe (13 points) and Evan Turner (11 points) all reached double figures for Portland.

The Spurs and Trail Blazers played in Portland a week ago with San Antonio handing the Trail Blazers a 110-90 defeat. Leonard scored a game-high 33 points and Patty Mills added 23 points off the bench.

The Spurs have won four consecutive games against Portland, its longest winning streak against the Trail Blazers since winning a franchise-best 12 straight games from April 12, 2005 to April 6, 2008. The Trail Blazers have failed to score 100 or more points in four of its past five games against the Spurs.



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