LIVE at the Moda Center, where your Portland Trail Blazers host the San Antonio(ld) Spurs.
It's the first game since the All-Star break, and the first time Portland will change their starting five all season, as leading scorer/rebounder LaMarcus Aldridge sits (gingerly) with left groin inflammation. Ouch.
Worse yet for Rip City, big men Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard are also sidelined tonight (double-ouch), meaning the Blazers' lone tall dudes this evening are Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson. Both will start, so expect to see plenty of Dorrell Wright (12.7 minutes per game this year) and Victor Claver (1.3 MPG this year) out there. Portland will look to avoid losing three straight for the first time all season, and they'll do it against a San Antonio side that isn't exactly a picture of health.
The Spurs' big three—Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili—are notably absent from the starting lineup, with Duncan being a late scratch. Still, the scrappy Spurs have managed the league's best road record this season behind ever-bubbly coach Gregg Popovich, who adorably told ESPN earlier this week that Parker is suffering from "a variety of maladies."
The (unofficial) second half the season has arrived! So click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action—on and off the floor.
San Antonio (38-15, 2nd in West)—Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph on guard. Danny Green and Jeff Ayres up front. Boris Diaw at center. On the bench: Shannon Brown, Patty Mills, Matt Bonner, Aron Baynes, Manu Ginobili, Nando De Colo.
Portland (36-17, 5th in West)—Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews on guard. Nicolas Batum and Thomas Robinson up front. Robin Lopez at center. On the bench: Dorell Wright, CJ McCollum, Will Barton, Earl Watson, Victor Claver, Allen Crabbe, Mo Williams.
The Spurs are one game removed from wrapping up their annual "Rodeo Road Trip." This year's edition covered nine games and nearly 9,000 miles, which seems excessive.
Speaking of, the most prolific All-Star of the year is in the arena, as Damian Lillard returns home after competing in five ASG events this past weekend, winning a title (along with Utah guard Trey Burke) in the Skills Challenge.
Oh, and (bury the lede) it's FREE DRINKING RECEPTACLE NIGHT! The glass in question features a cartoon Aldridge, who, frankly, the Blazers could use in their rotation.
One more lineup change for San Antonio: It looks like Tiago Splitter (who was listed as inactive on the roster—POPOVICH, YOU SNEAKY DEVIL!) will start Ayres.
ONE MORE LINEUP CHANGE as Portland goes with Wright up front over Robinson. Gamesmanship!
FIRST QUARTER: Blazers win the tip, and here we go...
10:59—Spurs strike first as Splitter finishes an uncontested dunk. Nobody in white got back on D. San Antone up 2-0.
10:26—Lopez has four rebounds already. And Portland's lone point on a free throw. Chilly start for both sides.
8:54—Lopez flips in a left-handed off a dish by Lillard. Both sides are a combined 3 of 12 from the field, and the action is just as pretty as that suggests. Blazers up 5-3 and Pop calls a timeout.
8:20—Lopez with a two-handed jam on a feed from Batum. He's the Blazer stepping up in LA's absence so far.
7:41—Spurs take another timeout after Wright drains a 3 right in front of Popovich. Blazers up 10-5 and Brown will check in for SA.
4:57—Matthews gets his second straight steal and is fouled on the break. He hits both free throws and Portland leads, 16-11.
4:26—Ginobili does what Ginobili does, pushing off McCollum and getting to the rim with an awkward layup +1. He converts the free throw and pulls the Spurs within a possession, 17-14.
3:48—Lillard with a one-handed dunk on a rebound to bring the house up a bit.
3:19—Timeout on the floor, Blazers up 19-14. Both teams are a bit slow out of the gate, shooting around 40%. Portland is dominating the boards to far. They're out-rebounding SA 14-5.
0:53—Robinson air-mails a 3-pointer from the corner. I note it here because he should never take such a shot again. Never. Nevah-evah.
0:00—Blazers lead 24-18. Wright leads Portland with six points, while Lillard and Lopez have five apiece.
11:25—Robinson hits the ground—HARD—on a rebound attempt. A *thud* heard across the arena, but he's back on his feet. Good thing, too: Blazers can't afford to lose another big.
10:22—Matthews goes strong to the rim for the foul +1. It's the third foul on Ayres. Matthews hits the free throw and Portland has its biggest lead of the night at 28-20.
9:07—Timeout on the floor after Ayres (who looks A LOT like Jeff Pendergraph) dunks two-handed and hangs on the rim a bit. Blazers lead 30-26.
7:46—Green with five straight points for SanAn, and we're tied at 33.
5:53—Timeout on the floor, and we're tied at 37. Nobody in double figures yet for either team, though San Antonio is now shooting a sorta-respectable 45%. Blazers at a 35% clip.
5:16—Wright is the first to double figures on a 20-foot jumper. Blazers up 2.
4:42—Now Williams hits a jumper, and Pop takes a timeout. Blazers lead 41-37.
3:24—Two straight 3s for Belinelli (the NBA's THREE-POINT CONTEST WINNER SO GUARD HIM MAYBE) and the Spurs lead, 43-41.
1:06—Lillard runs the floor, weaves through traffic and hits a silky fadeaway to put Portland up 5.
0:45.9—Stotts will take a timeout after Green hits a 3—San Antonio's first of the quarter. Blazers up 50-48.
HALFTIME: Blazers lead, 52-51. Lillard leads Portland with 11 points, followed by 10 points from Wright and 7 points/boards from Lopez. Belinelli leads all scorers with 12 points. Both teams shooting around 43%.
SECOND HALF: Spurs will start with it...
11:45—Patty Mills opens the half with a 20-foot jumper to give San Antonio a one-point lead.
8:36—Ginobili with a nifty little floater on the baseline, and the Spurs lead 63-58. They've come out with the hotter hand thus far.
7:43—Batum is called for a foul, then a technical foul. He argued with the ref after the crafty Ginobili hooked him a bit. But, of course, the ref only sees the retaliation, and Nic is T'd up. Spurs lead 65-58 after Ginobili misses the technical free throw—BALL DON'T LIE.
6:12—Mills drives and lays one in without jumping. One of the weirder baseline layups I've ever seen. San Antonio taking over this ballgame—they lead 69-60.
5:25—Lillard with an outstanding reverse layup of his own, +1. Hops and hangtime on full display. He converts the free throw and Portland pulls within five.
5:00—And now Matthews goes strong to the hole. Blazers have scored six straight to pull within three.
4:33—Lillard banks one in on yet another strong drive. Blazers back within a point, 69-68, and Lillard is playing with a spring in his step.
3:22—Timeout on the floor, Spurs up 73-70. Lillard leads all scorers with 18, followed by 12 from Matthews. Spurs are led by Belinelli's 15 points, followed by 8 from Mills.
2:50—Williams with a pair of free throws to tie it at 75. Mills out, Ginobili set to check back in.
1:40—Blazers have scored nine straight—six in a row by Williams. They lead 79-75 and have really turned this one around after a slow start to the half.
0:45—Batum finds Robinson, who rolls to the basket and jams it two-handed with the shot clock winding down. Blazers lead 81-77.
0:00—Portland leads 81-79 after trailing by nine early in the quarter. A great response for the home team, which looked flat out of the locker room. Five Blazers in double figures: Lillard (18), Matthews (15), Williams (14), Lopez (11) and Wright (10). Spurs are paced by Mills and Ginobili, who each have 16.
10:34—Diaw sneaks past Lopez for a layup to tie it up at 81.
10:12—And Green nails a 3 from the corner. That's seven straight for the Spurs, who are up 84-81.
9:47—Green with another 3, this one from the elbow. Ten straight points for SA, and they lead 87-81.
8:30—Mills with a lovely little floater on the baseline to give San Antonio an 89-81 lead. Not their biggest lead of the night, but at this point in the game, it's huge.
8:16—Matthews ends the 12-0 Spurs run with a free throw, but misses the second. Spurs lead 89-82.
6:25—Blazers hit their first field goal of the quarter (a Williams jumper) but San Antonio is in control, up 92-84.
4:04—Patty Mills is having a night. He has 27 points, the latest a pretty baseline jumper. Spurs up, 99-90.
3:49—Batum drains his first field goal of the night, and it's a 3. Blazers pull within six.
3:06—Lillard with an acrobatic reverse layup. So strong. Blazers are back in this one. Spurs lead 99-95, but the momentum is back with the home team.
2:33—Lillard with a step-back jumper. He's taking this game over ... from Patty Mills? Yes.
2:12—I spoke too soon. Mills with a jumper to put SA up two.
1:54—Matthews with a steal and a dunk to tie it at 101. Here we go!
1:33—Belinelli with a HUGE 3. Spurs up 104-101.
0:57.2—Splitter goes strong to the hoop and gets the bucket +1. Robinson was in the circle and Splitter finishes. He misses the free throw, though, but San Antonio still leads by 5.
0:54.4—Timeout on the floor, final full one for Portland.
0:46.2—Matthews blocked by Green, and we'll have a jump ball...won by San Antonio.
0:32.4—Blazers take a timeout after Splitter hits a free throw to put San Antonio up by six. The only good news for Portland? Patty Mills checked out.
0:24.1—Williams hits a 3 and Portland is back within a possession. San Antonio takes a timeout, up 107-104.
0:13.4—Splitter MISSES a layup, then Diaw rips Lopez under the rim. Spurs have it, AND NOW A JUMP BALL IS CALLED! Lillard vs. Belinelli? Splitter?....Spurs win it, Green is immediately fouled.
0:11.4—Green hits both. Spurs up 5.
0:00—Batum hits a 3 at the buzzer, but it's too little, too late.
FINAL: Spurs win, 111-109. Patty Mills—yes, THAT Patty Mills—scores 29 points to lead the way. Belinelli chips in 20, followed by 16 each from Green and Ginobili.
The Blazers dug themselves too big of a hole to start the 4th. They missed 12 straight shots at one point, and the best road team in the NBA smelled blood in the water. It was a crazy final minute, but a lack of Aldridge (and an ice-cold night from Batum) was too much for Portland to overcome.
Lillard did his part, scoring 31 points and handing out six assists. Williams finished with 19 points, followed by 18 from Matthews, 11 points and 14 boards from Lopez and 10 each from Robinson and Wright.
Portland is back at it on Friday, when it hosts Utah. Tip-off is set for 7.