After a couple of shorthanded wins against the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers, the Spurs continued to build on that momentum against a very good Trail Blazers team. While they came out flat in the third quarter and lost their halftime lead, the Silver and Black found a way to fight back into this game. They did a solid job keeping the game within arm’s reach, eventually finding a way to take back the lead and avoid a C.J. McCollum game-winner at the horn.
Without the services of Kawhi Leonard (again) and Tony Parker, Pop showed a lot of trust in his role players once again. Although his team went a little turnover crazy (recording 22 for the game), which was a huge factor in them letting the lead slip away in the third, you never felt like they were out of it during the second half.
Here are some observations from this game:
- As written a week ago by our own Jesus Gomez, LaMarcus Aldridge has very quietly become the Spurs’ defensive anchor. Aldridge proved this once again tonight, notching three blocks in the game. LA was fantastic at making his presence felt, especially with how he contested shots at the basket and didn’t allow the Blazers to feel comfortable taking it to the rim. His help side defense was terrific, and played a huge part in cementing the Spurs this win.
- Dejounte Murray continues to prove that he’s a very skilled rebounder at his position. Although Murray struggled to get going on offense, recording the same number of points as he did turnovers (4), DJ stayed aggressive and active – especially on the glass. He snagged nine boards on the night, using his six-foot-five height and impressive vertical to his advantage. Even when he’s not having the best night shooting and/or handling the ball, he finds different ways to make himself useful. At this rate, he’s in great position moving forward to be an elite rebounder at the point guard spot for many years to come (hopefully).
- Pau Gasol has still got it. While the 20-point, 17-rebound, 5-assist game he put up Wednesday night shouldn’t be expected every game from Spurs fans, it demonstrated that Gasol is still capable of showing flashes of his old self from time to time. Whether it was Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, or Ed Davis, the Trail Blazers had no answer for the wily Spaniard. Gasol tortured them inside the paint with an array of post moves all night long. He also bullied them on glass – including snatching four offensive rebounds and keeping possessions alive with his activity. He was a huge reason why the Spurs outrebounded the Trail Blazers 53-38.
- We can trust in Patty Mills down the stretch. With the game up in the air, Mills delivered two clutch baskets to help SA gain a little separation in the final moments, including a super nice sweeping layup with 28 seconds left. After getting off to a rocky start to the season, Patty is starting to find his rhythm a little bit more. He’s always been a little bit of a streaky shooter, but he’s a tested player that you want out on the floor in these important moments. And he showed how valuable that experience was against Portland.
- Manu Ginobili is still an ageless wonder. In the last minute of the second-quarter, with the Spurs aiming to execute a successful two-for-one series of possessions, Manu somehow nailed a one-footed leaning three-point shot that drew “oohs” and “ahhs” from even the road crowd. At forty years old, Manu is having an extremely memorable season between his game-winners against the Celtics and Mavs, and you can add that ridiculous shot into the highlight reel for the year thus far.
- Kyle Anderson is still an important player in the Spurs’ rotation. After missing the last two weeks with a knee injury, Anderson played his first game back tonight. He once again impressed on defense by swiping two steals (one that he had no business getting to), and using his length to bother the Trail Blazers. He also finished with five points, six boards, and three assists, proving to be a swiss-army knife off the bench.
- Overall, this was an ugly, but still impressive win from the Spurs against a very solid Trail Blazers squad. They showed resiliency weathering the storm in the third quarter, as well as a lot of heart staying after it and gutting this win out despite being undermanned. This is a team that executes so well down the stretch, and Pop continues to put together one of the best coaching jobs of his career so far (which is obviously saying something). They’re back on the road tonight against the Utah Jazz.