The San Antonio Spurs suffered a major blow to their playoff hopes on Thursday night when they fell to the Portland Trail Blazers by a final score of 125-117. The loss dropped the Spurs to 22-29 on the season, 0-3 on the Rodeo Road Trip and, most importantly, four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Additionally, San Antonio is now one and a half games behind the ninth seeded Blazers.
In the first quarter in Portland, the Spurs got going offensively near the end of the period and took a 35-27 lead into the second. The Blazers rallied back in the second quarter but the good guys continued playing well enough to enter halftime with a 60-59 advantage.
The teams traded mini runs in the third stanza until two minutes were left in the quarter. That’s when the Spurs started an 11-0 run that extended into the fourth period.
San Antonio was up 94-86 in the fourth when everything collapsed. The Blazers scored 18 points in the next three and a half minutes to retake the lead. The Spurs were able to hang in for a while until Portland caught fire from three-point land to put San Antonio’s chances to bed.
This wasn’t a good loss in a game the Spurs really needed to get. Another fourth quarter collapse, particularly defensively, has to be a tough pill to swallow for the Silver and Black. San Antonio’s playoff hopes aren’t extinguished but they are definitely as slim as they’ve been in more than 22 years.
Spurs at Blazers – Final Grades
The good: LaMarcus Aldridge was really aggressive. Hassan Whiteside’s length has long given Aldridge problems but the 34-year-old was willing to be physical tonight in order to pry open some extra room. He was looking for his shot early and often, which helped create spacing. Aldridge passed the ball well and was decently active in the paint defensively. The bad: As hard as Aldridge played against Whiteside, Portland’s center was still able to outplay him. Aldridge could have been better on the glass and his help-defense was very spotty. Offensively, his shot-selection wasn’t great and, as a result, he didn’t shoot well. Aldridge’s inefficiency was too much for San Antonio to overcome.
For three quarters, I was pleased with DeMar DeRozan’s play. He was getting to the line, driving hard to the rim, making plays for his compatriots and was even more alive than usual on defense. Unfortunately, DeRozan’s fourth quarter was poor. He had only two points and one assist when the Spurs needed him most. His defense was also lackluster in the final period. San Antonio really needed DeRozan to rise to the occasion to help snag a big road win — but that didn’t happen.
The good: I actually thought Dejounte Murray ran the offense well tonight. He played at a good pace, made smart passes and flashed some playmaking creativity we don’t often see from him. Murray’s court vision was impressive and he also finished the game without a turnover. Defensively, I thought he guarded Damian Lillard well. Murray’s pressure bothered Lillard at times and that helped to bog down Portland’s offensive attack for stretches. The bad: Murray just couldn’t hit a shot. This is the second time in three games that Murray went 1-for-7 from the field. By the end of the contest, the Blazers weren’t even defending him and Murray couldn’t make them pay.
Offensively, Bryn Forbes was a bit sloppy with the ball and his dribbling was wonky but otherwise he was fine. He shot well, created a little bit of offense and remained a threat. Defensively, though, Forbes was constantly overmatched. He struggled individually and struggled even more in rotations. He finally had a couple good rotations in the second half but the damage had already been done. Plus, even when Forbes did rotate in time, he was always too small and too unathletic to do anything.
Let’s hope this goes down as Trey Lyles’ breakout game. He’s been a good scorer for a majority of his career but this was really the first time all season that he’s looked like a potent scorer for the Spurs. He sank 4-of-6 three-pointers, hit a couple impressive shots from mid-range and even finished niftily at the rim. San Antonio was at their best tonight when Lyles was involved on offense. Defensively, I thought he did okay. He could have been better in one-on-one situations but he rebounded well and was hustling help-wise.
I liked a lot of what Derrick White did. His smarts when driving to the rim and understanding how to draw fouls allowed him to get to the free throw line seven times. White’s playmaking was useful and he bailed the Spurs out a ton by creating something out of nothing. It’s also worth noting that he scored eight straight points in the fourth to keep the Spurs afloat (and then he was subbed out). Defensively, he did a lot of good. He wasn’t as disruptive as Murray but he competed and kept a hand up.
Stats-wise, Patty Mills looks like he had a good game. But if you watched him play, you saw a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. Defensively, he was a liability and made matters worse by gambling a lot and coming up empty just about every time. Mills was flying around the court trying to make plays but, at the same time, balls were bouncing off his hands and sometimes his hustle caused him to get out of position. Offensively, Mills was good but, again, his normal level of precision wasn’t there.
The good: Rudy Gay was competent offensively. He looked to be jumping better and his shooting mechanics looked fluid. He also took care of the ball better than normal. The bad: Wow, was Gay bad at defense. The Spurs couldn’t get a stop when he was on the court. He was slow on the perimeter and weak in the paint. Always a step behind, Gay was a millstone around San Antonio’s neck on the defensive side of the court.
Lonnie Walker IV
Lonnie Walker IV just didn’t provide much substance tonight. He had one good finish at the rim but should have gone up stronger (or gone up at all) another three or four times. Defensively, the effort was there but the results were spotty at best. Overall, the Spurs need more actual production from Walker.
This was a run of the mill game for Jakob Poeltl. He was really strong on the defensive glass, which was a positive sign. Poeltl also passed it well and didn’t stand around on offense. On the other side of the coin, his free throw shooting is seemingly getting uglier and uglier and his rim protection could have been a lot better.
Marco Belinelli got a stint but his two missed three-pointers apparently didn’t win over the coaching staff.
It was smart for Pop to ride the hot hand in Lyles. That said, I thought Aldridge and DeRozan played too many minutes. Those two should be closer to 32 minutes unless they are playing extraordinarily well, which wasn’t the case tonight. My bigger issue with Pop, though, was the lack of playing time for White. He has to play more than 23 minutes in a game you really need to win. I don’t get it. In the fourth, White scored eight straight points and the game was tied. Pop sits him and the Blazers respond with an 11-2 run in less than three minutes. How Murray and White don’t play together down the stretch of a game against the Blazers, who have arguably the best backcourt in the NBA, I will never understand.
Up Next for the Spurs
Saturday night is as close to a must-win game as the Spurs have had this season. On paper, the Sacramento Kings are the easiest team San Antonio will battle on the Rodeo Road Trip. If the Spurs lose in Sacramento, that could very well signal the end of the playoff streak.