Spurs' stars will be fresh for Blazers game
The San Antonio Spurs and the Trail Blazers will both be looking for better results when they square off Thursday night in Portland.
The Spurs have lost the first two games of their current five-game road trip, getting drubbed 141-102 Wednesday night by the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif. They will play three more road games after the All-Star break before returning home to face Detroit on Feb. 27.
San Antonio sat out stars LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan for "load management," aka "rest," on Wednesday in the first half of a back-to-back set.
On Thursday, the Spurs still will be without starting point guard Derrick White, who has missed the past two games due to plantar fasciitis in right foot. In the month of January, White averaged 15.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 59.7 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from 3-point range.
It's a tough blow for the Spurs, who had already lost the projected starter at the point, Dejounte Murray, for the season with a torn ACL knee injury in the preseason.
"Derrick has been a really important piece on both ends," said Spurs forward Davis Bertans, inserted into the starting lineup in White's absence, with veterans Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli in the starting backcourt against the Warriors. "He has been guarding (the opponent's) better guards or small forwards. We all have to put in a little extra to try to fill that void."
San Antonio had won five in a row before falling 127-112 at Sacramento on Monday. Now they have endured consecutive blowout defeats.
The Spurs will rely heavily Thursday night on Aldridge, the former Trail Blazer who was recently selected for his seventh All-Star Game. Portland forward Meyers Leonard -- who played three seasons with Aldridge -- said work ethic is the key.
"LaMarcus works behind the scenes," Leonard said. "There were times when I'd come in and he'd be in the gym, putting up jumpers and working on his right shoulder fade from the post. I'm like, 'No wonder this guy dominates when he's out there.' He's doing an unbelievable job rebounding this season, and seems to be anchoring their team well. He's just a monster, that's all there is to it."
Leonard noted that the Spurs had a string of 19 straight 50-win seasons (in non-lockout years) until going 47-35 last season under veteran coach Gregg Popovich.
"They have one of the greatest coaches of all time," Leonard said. "They have a system where, you either find a way to fit in or you're not going to be on the floor. They're always a difficult opponent. We have to do a good job of preparing and be ready to go Thursday night."
Portland saw its eight-game home win streak end with a 118-108 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night. The Trail Blazers had not played since a 132-105 rout of the visiting Utah Jazz on Jan. 30.
"For whatever reason, we didn't seem to have a lot of pop for most of the game," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said of the Tuesday contest. "I don't know if it was the five days off or what, but it seemed pretty obvious that for most of the first three quarters, we just didn't make the energy plays. I'm going to just chalk it up to the five days off and hope we bring it better against the Spurs on Thursday."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 7, 2019