Blazers loom as Spurs try to keep the wins coming
San Antonio has used a seven-game winning streak to vault into its usual spot as a relative lock for a spot in the postseason.
The Spurs can move further up the Western Conference standings if they can find a way to beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday in the San Antonio.
The Spurs (40-29) are 11 games above .500, their best mark of the season. They head into Saturday's game in sixth in the conference standings, 2 1/2 games behind fourth-place Portland.
San Antonio posted its ninth consecutive victory at home on Friday when it dominated hapless New York 109-83 in the first of a home back-to-back. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in three quarters to lead balanced scoring.
Aldridge posted his team-high 25th double-double as the Spurs opened a four-game homestand in fine fashion.
"If you want to go to the playoffs, you've got to win," Aldridge said about the team's improved play. "Everybody sensed that. Guys are starting to figure it out now."
DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes added 13 points each in the win, with Jakob Poeltl, Marco Belinelli and Rudy Gay scoring 12 points apiece. Gay returned after missing two games with the flu.
DeRozan said the team has started to play consistently after a rough feeling-out period over the first half of the year.
"We have been, pretty much, consistent," DeRozan told the San Antonio Express News. "That was kind of always our struggle. But, you can see the consistency. We can beat anyone in this league. We always show up against the best. We have to treat everyone we play like they are the No. 1, No. 2 seed."
The Trail Blazers also have a quick turnaround, heading to San Antonio after a 122-110 win in New Orleans on Friday in the first game of a road back-to-back. Damian Lillard finished with 24 points and seven assists, C.J. McCollum scored 23 points, and Enes Kanter added 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Rodney Hood, starting for Moe Harkless, who sat out with left knee soreness, went 5-of-7 from the field and scored 17 points in 28 minutes. Zach Collins tallied 12 points and Jusuf Nurkic racked up 11 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out in 22 minutes.
Saturday's game is the final of a three-game road trip for Portland, which has won three straight. The victory also allowed Portland (42-26) to sweep the three-game season-series against the Pelicans, who swept the Blazers from the first-round of last season's playoffs.
"It's kind of hung over our head all summer and all season," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told The Oregonian before tip-off. "But the good thing is we're looking forward instead of backward."
Lillard moved past Aldridge, his former teammate, for the second spot in Portland's career scoring list with 12,565 points. It took Lillard under seven seasons to reach the lofty spot, but he is still well back of Clyde Drexler, the Trail Blazers' all-time franchise scoring leader, who amassed 18,040 points in 11 1/2 seasons in Portland.
"It means a lot," Lillard said. "He's the first one that I've passed that has been in the league at the same time as me and was a teammate of mine. It's getting closer -- that No. 1 spot -- now I'm gunning for Clyde. LaMarcus has already congratulated me."
Harkless missed his 21st game this season with a lingering knee injury. "Hopefully he'll play (Saturday)," Stotts said.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 16, 2019