Another home game, another disappointing loss. The San Antonio Spurs (26-28) snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as the Portland Trail Blazers (32-23) eked out a 107-106 win.
The Blazers, who were playing without superstar Damian Lillard, trailed by three points after a DeMar DeRozan jumper with 59 seconds remaining. However, they were able to pull out the win by scoring the game’s final four points. On the last possession, DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Jakob Poeltl all missed shots that would have given the good guys the lead.
With five and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Spurs appeared to be in control. They led by 16 points and were playing well on both ends. Unfortunately, the bench couldn’t hold the momentum and the Blazers went on a 28-10 run to grab the lead. That ultimately set the stage for Portland’s late-game heroics.
The Spurs and Blazers are the two least turnover-prone teams in the league. In the fourth, San Antonio turned it over seven times and Portland turned it over only once. The Blazers being able to take care of the ball played an important part in their win.
Spurs vs. Blazers: Final Grades
The good: DeRozan was certainly productive, as he finished with 26 points and ten assists. In the fourth, he kept the Spurs alive by shooting 4-for-7 in the quarter. He didn’t back down from trying to close out the game, which was good to see. The bad: DeRozan’s efficiency was lacking. He spent a lot of time complaining about the lack of whistles on his drives. His defense was mostly a liability.
Sure, the triple-doubt was cool but Murray didn’t play that well. He was even sloppier than his five turnovers indicate. He missed a lot of makeable shots, particularly inside of the arc. Murray gave great effort on the boards and defensively against CJ McCollum but ran out of gas at the end. Late in the fourth, he had no energy left to give.
The good: White shot well from three-point range, including knocking down a big one in the fourth quarter. His defense, both individually and team-wise, was stout. His rim protection remains outstanding for his size and position. He had a couple quality passes and took care of the ball well enough. The bad: White was inept inside of the arc. He didn’t drive the rock with enough physicality. In all facets, he could have played with more force.
Poeltl got off to a really difficult start. When he wasn’t in foul trouble, he was making errors on both ends. Eventually, he picked it up and performed better and better as the game progressed. On defense, he guarded the hoop well and also did well against pick-and-rolls. On offense, his touch was better than usual and he was beastly on the glass. Lowlights: Poeltl wasn’t sturdy enough on the defensive backboard and his passing wasn’t as crisp as usual.
Not a bad outing from Johnson. He rebounded really well, his forays to the rim were usually smart and he rarely forced the issue. Defensively, he limited his mistakes while throwing his body around. Johnson could have done more during his time on the court but he was consistently making a positive impact on a possession to possession basis, which is a notable accomplishment at this stage of his career.
Defensively, Gay’s lack of mobility hurt the Spurs at times. He rebounded his airspace well and his length was sometimes beneficial, though. On offense, Gay could have passed more than he did. His jumper on the last possession was the type of shot he needs to knock down to justify being on the court.
Lonnie Walker IV
Walker was close to having a good game. His speed, ability to break down the defense and passing were all assets. He also shot with confidence. Unfortunately, he played poorly when given an opportunity in the fourth quarter. He had a blown defensive rotation and then turned the ball over on the play that the Blazers took the lead for good.
Ouch. Mills laid an egg on offense. Not only did he miss all of his shots, he was ruining sets by holding onto the ball too long. Defensively, he failed to make a positive impact. The way these Spurs are built, they need Mills to consistently bring energy and consistently find ways to spark the team. Tonight, he did none of that.
The silver lining tonight was the play of Eubanks. Even though Gorgui Dieng was available to play, Pop stuck with Eubanks and that decision paid dividends. His finishing around the rim was excellent and he even flashed a jumper. Defensively, he was throwing his body around and finding ways to make plays on that end as well. Eubanks had a couple of mistakes on defense in which he failed to help in time — but other than that pair of errors, he was really good.
The good: Going with Eubanks turned out to be the right call. I liked the thought of giving Walker important fourth quarter minutes. The bad: Walker playing in the fourth ended up not being a good decision. The starters, specifically Murray, looked tired at the end. While he pulled the plug early on Mills, it needed to be done even earlier. Pop has historically been really good at figuring out how to best utilize his bench but that’s been an issue lately — and was again a problem versus the Blazers.
The Spurs have to turn around and play tomorrow night on the road against the Phoenix Suns. It will be their fifth game in seven days. The Suns have the second best record in the league. Getting a W will be a big challenge.