Wed, Mar 12 Trail Blazers-Spurs Preview
8:30 FSN, ESPN
AT&T Center - San Antonio, Texas
By JORDAN GARRETSON, Associated Press
Mired in a brief offensive lull, the Portland Trail Blazers are seeing their chances at a top-four seed in the Western Conference slip away. Perhaps facing the San Antonio Spurs, whom they played well against offensively in earlier matchups, can help Portland figure things out.
This time, however, San Antonio comes in as one of the NBA's hottest teams.
Portland will try to end a three-game slide Wednesday night when it visits league-leading San Antonio, which is aiming for its eighth straight win.
The Trail Blazers (42-22) trail fourth-place Houston by two games and are on the brink of their first four-game losing streak this season. Damian Lillard's 32 points weren't enough in a 109-99 loss at Memphis on Tuesday as Portland shot 40.7 percent.
Lillard hit a career-high 12 free throws on 13 attempts, but he and LaMarcus Aldridge were a combined 16 of 44 from the field. Wesley Matthews had five points on 1-for-7 shooting after scoring 26 in each of the previous two games.
Portland has been sub-par on the offensive end of late, shooting 40.6 percent in Sunday's 118-113 overtime loss at Houston. The Trail Blazers had 18 assists Tuesday, more than five below their season average, and totaled 17 in the first of three straight losses last week at Dallas.
They shot 31.6 percent from 3-point range in their previous five games before going 7 of 17 in Memphis.
"I thought we had a lot of shots we normally make. We took care of the ball," coach Terry Stotts said, referring to his club's eight turnovers. "We got to the free-throw line. We were aggressive. I thought it was just one of those nights."
Aldridge is shooting 35.2 percent over his last four games. Tuesday marked his sixth game back since missing five in a row due to a strained groin.
"I am going to find my rhythm and I am going to make those shots I've been missing soon," he said. "It will get a lot better."
If recent history is any indication, Wednesday could see Aldridge's proclamation come true. He's averaging 25.3 points and shooting 57.6 percent over his last seven matchups with San Antonio (47-16).
Portland shot 49.2 percent while taking two of three meetings earlier this season. Lillard's 26.8 scoring average in six career games against the Spurs is tied for his highest versus any team.
The Spurs didn't have Tony Parker, Tim Duncan or Kawhi Leonard for a 111-109 win at Portland on Feb. 19, but they've been surging with a fully healthy rotation. San Antonio has won 10 of 11 and seven in a row after Tuesday's 104-96 victory at Chicago.
Manu Ginobili scored 22 while Parker added 20.
"Wonderful game, we were very sharp," said Ginobili, who is shooting 64.1 percent over the past four games. "We made a lot of shots in the beginning, which gave us a lead that ... it's easier to play like that."
The Spurs have won all seven games since Leonard returned from a 14-game absence because of a fractured hand. He's averaging 15.0 points and 2.4 steals while going 12 of 23 from 3-point range in that stretch.
Parker was only 12 of 32 while totaling 29 points in the first two games against Portland, while Ginobili scored a season-high 29 in a 109-100 home loss to the Trail Blazers on Jan. 17.
Matthews is 16 of 25 from beyond the arc over his last four games versus San Antonio.