Portland at San Antonio
Time: 6 PM CT, NBA LP
Spread: SAS -1
Odds c/o Bovada
Portland had been rolling this season, but it has now lost four of its past five, and six of its past nine, overall.
Prior to those losses, it put together a four-game win streak. During that streak, it defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, and most recently, the Boston Celtics.
In the 100-94 win over Boston, Portland got a well-rounded scoring effort from its starters, placing four of the five in double-figures, paced by Damian Lillard’s 19 points on 7 of 15 shooting. Portland shot 45.3 percent in the game, and it was 14 of 36 from three-point range. It held Boston to 38 percent shooting, and it out-rebounded the Celtics 55-42 in the game.
Lillard, for his part, has been sensational this season. The All-Star is averaging 26 points, five rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. His backcourt sidekick CJ McCollum is rounding into form too, averaging 20.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. The Blazers use its starting center Josuf Nurkic just 24.9 minutes a game, but he averages 15.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in that time, making the most of it with his high energy play.
The reduction in his time means more for Zach Collins, and the second-year big man has also looked good.
Collins is averaging 10.2 points and 1.23 blocks per game in 21 minutes a night. The Blazers have good depth, and its bench is greatly improved with the better play of Evan Turner and Nik Stauskas, who has revived his career in Portland. Stauskas is averaging 7.8 points per game in his 19 minutes a night. The Blazers now seem to have the depth it has lacked in previous seasons, and it is making a great difference evidenced by its No. 2 position in the Western Conference thus far.
The San Antonio Spurs are 10-12 and have lost four of its past six games. Pau Gasol is out indefinitely with a stress fracture, but that is no major loss as the veteran’s minutes have vastly decreased and he is scarcely a picture of the core unit, anymore. Gasol was averaging just 17 minutes a game prior to sustaining the injury, and in his stead expect Davis Bertans and Jakob Poeltl to absorb the extra minutes.
The Spurs clearly are not the same vaunted team without its core players of seasons past: Gone are Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, while Tony Parker is lacing it up for the Charlotte Hornets this season. DeMar DeRozan is the new face of the franchise, and he has played well. DeRozan is averaging 24 points, six rebounds and six assists per game while leading the team in PER (excluding Gasol’s limited play) at 21.1.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a shadow of the player he was in Portland, but he still is playing reasonably well in averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. Gregg Popovich can always seemingly get blood from oranges, but this Spurs team really might be maxing out at its near-.500 record. After DeRozan, Aldridge and veteran Rudy Gay, the Spurs have a ragtag cast of sidekicks that have scarcely made huge impacts in their pro careers.
Short of Derrick White becoming some sort of season savior, it is tough to envision much changing for the Spurs. White began the season injured but has now started in six games, and he is averaging five points and two assists in his 12 appearances total this season. It is not exactly the kind of start from the youngster that spells “season savior.” This may be the Spurs worst season ever under Gregg Popovich, but the management in San Antonio will relish the chance to draft high in 2019, given its acumen for pulling the top players with far worse picks.