Grades: San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers – Game #80
Playing in the first ever NBA game in Austin, the San Antonio Spurs pulled out a late victory over the Portland Trail Blazers by a final score of 129-127. The Blazers seemingly had control of the contest in the fourth quarter but the Spurs were able to rally to thrill the fans in the Moody Center.
During the first three quarters, both teams made a lot of runs. Not much defense was being played so it didn’t take much to stack scoring runs. Heading into the final period, the Blazers held a two-point lead, 100-98.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Portland had a 119-110 advantage. However, that’s when the good guys made their run. Over the course of the next four minutes, the Spurs went on a 13-0 run to grab the lead. San Antonio (or Austin, as it was) never relinquished that advantage.
Overall, I wouldn’t classify this as an impressive win. The Blazers are tanking and they were sitting all of their best players. The Spurs had a lot more of their regular rotation on the court — so they should have won the game.
Spurs vs. Blazers – Final Grades
Johnson struggled from three-point range and was inactive on the defensive end. The good news is he flourished in basically every other aspect of the sport. He was strong going to the hoop, he finished well in traffic, he had more than his share of heady passes and he limited his mistakes. Johnson might have forced a few shots but his energetic ways made that forgivable.
Jones was again rock solid as the starting point guard. He shot well enough, particularly if you factor in his 7-for-7 showing at the charity stripe. His passing was good throughout but became great in the fourth quarter. Defensively and hustle-wise, Jones performed at a high level. All in all, he’s ending the season on a high note and is really coming into his own as the head of the snake.
Defensively, I thought Collins was lackadaisical to begin the game against the Blazers. Thankfully, he picked up his intensity on that end as the game progressed. By the fourth quarter, Collins was far and away the best defender on the court. He was protecting the rim, being physical on the boards and limiting his needless fouls. Offensively, Collins produced well. He played with aggression and his touch in the paint was sublime.
Bates-Diop not only led the Spurs with 25 points, he spurred the game-winning charge in the fourth quarter. During the aforementioned 13-0 run, he hit a three-pointer to give the Spurs a one-point lead. Less than 30 seconds later, Bates-Diop drained another three to provide further cushion. Beyond those long balls, he did great getting to the free throw line and was demonstrative when taking the ball to the hoop. Bates-Diop also passed it well and competed on defense.
Yikes, chalk this up as a night to forget for Branham. The rookie missed 11 of his 12 shots from the field. The only shot he made was a dunk in transition. Additionally, Branham’s defense was sub par. I liked that he remained confident throughout his struggles — but that was the only thing I liked about Branham tonight.
Well, it’s starting to look like this kid isn’t a fluke. After scoring 26 points two games ago against the Sacramento Kings, Champagnie dropped 24 more points tonight against the Blazers. In the first half, he had 19 points and hit 5-of-7 three-point attempts. (The rest of the team was 0-for-13 from deep in the first half, for the record.) Champagnie’s outside shot looks fantastic. He’s also moving well without the ball and has to the wherewithal to get good shots in the paint. Defensively, Champagnie utilizes his basketball IQ to stick to the right spots.
The good: Mamukelashvili was stout on the boards, particularly on the offensive end of the court. His energetic ways were making things happen on the defensive end. The bad: Mamukelashvili struggled on the offensive end. He shot poorly and his usually reliable passing skills weren’t as noticeable tonight.
Langford played with toughness on both ends of the court. He passed the ball better than usual and he efforted defensively. Unfortunately, Langford also turned it over three times in 18 minutes and wasn’t really doing enough on offense to justify playing him more minutes.
Wesley wasn’t especially chaotic in his 17 minutes of action. I thought his shot-selection was fine and his defense was a bright spot. On the other hand, he’s still struggling with sloppiness when trying to run the show — particularly in transition. Wesley is just thinking way too much right now instead of just going out there and relying on his instincts.
Barlow was vivacious on the boards. When he had the ball in the paint, he was strong with it. Defensively, Barlow moved his feet well and performed adequately on the inside and outside. The rookie continues to play like he belongs in the NBA.
I can understand why the pro-tankers would be upset with this game. The Blazers had the game won until Pop reinserted his starters down the stretch. Predictably, Portland’s ragtag bench unit couldn’t hang on down the stretch. With lottery balls in mind, should Pop really have gone after this win as much as he did? Probably not, if we’re being honest.