Trail Blazers-Spurs Preview
After LaMarcus Aldridge said his return to Portland last week was difficult, his second look at his former team should be a bit easier in front of his new fans.
It also helps that the San Antonio Spurs are rolling and the Trail Blazers reeling.
Aldridge will get a chance to extend both trends Monday night when Portland visits the Spurs for the second meeting between the two in six days.
Inserting Aldridge into an already balanced offense has led to a strong start for the Spurs (7-2), whose 92-83 home victory over winless Philadelphia on Saturday was their fourth straight overall and third in as many chances at AT&T Center.
Dating to last season, San Antonio has won 12 straight regular-season home games. The Spurs are allowing 91.8 points per game this season and an NBA-low 84.0 at home.
Aldridge was the key against the 76ers with 17 points and a season-high 19 rebounds, helping San Antonio win without Kawhi Leonard (upper respiratory infection) and Manu Ginobili (adductor strain), who are each probable to return against the Trail Blazers.
Tony Parker added 16 points and Tim Duncan had 15 in the absence of Leonard, who is the club's leading scorer with 21.9 points per game.
A 113-101 win in Portland on Wednesday offered a glimpse of what the Blazers lost and the Spurs gained when Aldridge signed with them as a free agent this summer. Aldridge, who spent his first nine seasons with Portland, scored 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting. However, he downplayed this next meeting after San Antonio's win over Philadelphia.
"It's just another game now," he said. "Going up there meant more, and it was blown up. Them coming here doesn't mean anything, it's just another game now."
The Blazers (4-7) are hoping it's nothing like their recent contests after losing five straight for just the second time since November 2013. They've surrendered 109.6 points per game on the skid while allowing the opposition to shoot 49.5 percent from the field.
Damian Lillard has cooled a bit with a combined 34 points on 14-of-40 shooting in his last two, but he's still averaging 25.1 per game this season.
"I'm just happy that we won four games early, because instead of us being 1-9, we're 4-7," Lillard told the team's official website. "Which is obviously not where we want to be, but it's something to work with. It could be a lot uglier than it is. A lot of the games that we've lost, we were in position to win them."
That includes a 101-100 loss in Memphis on Friday that ended on Zach Randolph's put-back with less than a second left.
Portland has lost three straight on the road to fall to 2-4 this season and is 1-5 in its last six at San Antonio, including playoffs.
The Blazers' latest road loss came with the help of another former teammate when Nicolas Batum scored 33 to lead Charlotte to a 106-94 win Sunday. Portland shot just 39.3 percent and hit only five of its 21 attempts from 3-point range.
The Blazers have been held below 40 percent from the field three times already after it happened nine times all of last season.