9:00 PM CT Spurs-Trail Blazers Preview By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
TV: CW35, KBVO (Austin) San Antonio (5 - 1) Portland (2 - 3)
STATS Senior Writer
(AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs have lost seven straight road games to the Portland Trail Blazers, but last season's lone visit to the Rose Garden was more notable for who wasn't on the court than for who played.
The Spurs continue their four-game trip Saturday night as they try to hand the Trail Blazers a third straight loss.
San Antonio (5-1) is off to the best start in the Western Conference, but Portland (2-3) has won 10 of the last 14 meetings including all seven at home in that span.
The Spurs took two of three meetings overall last season, but the lone defeat was a 137-97 road loss on Feb. 21 that ended an 11-game win streak and was the most lopsided contest in the 145-game history of this series.
There was a simple explanation for why the Trail Blazers led by as many as 48 points. Manu Ginobili was injured, and coach Gregg Popovich chose to rest stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan since his club was playing its third game in four nights.
That's the same scenario facing Popovich this time after the Spurs won 97-86 at Sacramento on Friday, but there's no indication on whether the coach will sit anyone out.
Duncan had 23 points and 12 boards even though he was one of several players who were ill Friday. Parker was also sick and had a season-low five points while Stephen Jackson sat out with the flu.
Patty Mills made 8 for 9 shots for 18 points to help pick up the slack with Parker hampered.
"He was real big; he helped us get this win," said Popovich said about Mills. "We needed points from other players and Patty got it done for us."
Mills will face the Blazers in Portland for the first time after spending his first two seasons with the franchise.
Parker is averaging 5.0 points on 24.0 percent shooting over his last three contests.
This will be the Frenchman's first matchup with promising Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who is averaging 18.6 points to lead all rookies.
Lillard and the Blazers, however, have lost their last two games by double digits. Portland trailed by as many as 25 points in Thursday's 103-90 home defeat to the Clippers, falling behind by 21 at halftime before a spirited rally fell well short.
"We know when we play like that, with a lot of energy and when we're flying around, playing hard and moving the ball, we know that we can play with one of the best teams in the league," Lillard said. "At the same time, we can't put ourselves in that hole, because we're not that level of team to be able to fight back every time."
First-year coach Terry Stotts admits he is unsure what to expect from his team, which has shot more free throws in each of its last two games.
"I don't know if we have a formula for winning games yet," Stotts said. "We shot more free throws. There have been most games we shoot more free throws and lose."
LaMarcus Aldridge, who will likely match up with Duncan, averaged 25.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in two games last season against the Spurs.