San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers
Time: 10:35 PM ET
Spread: POR -3
Betting odds c/o Bovada
Both these teams are very good—and both are at full strength. LaMarcus Aldridge is expected to play (thumb) and other than missing the seldom used Joel Freeland, the Portland Trail Blazers are all systems go.
The San Antonio Spurs travel to face Portland in a game the Trail Blazers are favored by 3 points in the NBA live lines. The total is set at 195, and for an explanation of how to bet over/unders check our NBA odds explained.
San Antonio finds itself in a strange predicament, usual leaders of the West during the regular season. This year, The Spurs are 34-22 and sit No. 7 in the West, trailing No. 6 LA Clippers by 2.5 games. Their opponent Portland leads its division, guaranteeing a home court advantage in the first round. Despite having a record inferior to No. 5 Dallas, the Blazers would host the series if the playoffs began today.
Portland made a move to acquire shooting guard Arron Afflalo at the deadline, which will infuse some much needed depth into its backcourt. With a four guard rotation featuring Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews, Steve Blake and Afflalo, the Blazers should have the tools to keep up with the loaded backcourts of the Clippers, Spurs, and most especially, Golden State Warriors.
Afflalo may need to resume his role of being a strong defender to render the Blazers with its best chance. Klay Thompson alone is requiring a lot of attention, aside from the job Lillard will have to do on Curry. In tonight’s affair, the Blazers face Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, not to mention Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green—a four guard rotation arguably superior even to the All-Star play of Lillard.
Leonard emerged as the unlikely Finals MVP last year and is the transitioning leader of the Spurs as the older generation winds down their NBA careers. To be sure, however, this could be the year that the Spurs win its second straight title, having won four in the last 15 seasons. Gregg Popovich has a well oiled system and is getting the most out of guys like Boris Diaw, who may be irrelevant rotation players on other teams (as Diaw was in Charlotte). Tim Duncan is still an All-Star in this league, and keeps a defense strong, blocking 1.9 shots a game and changing considerably more. He’s averaging 14.6 points and 9.8 rebounds in 29 minutes a night, posting a very high PER of 22.2.
Leonard leads the team in scoring with 14.8 points per game, a testament to how well-balanced the Spurs scoring is. Ginobili now plays jus 24 minutes per game, but still is a spark off the bench capable of getting hot and scoring in the clutch. Popovich just provides a great example of a team that can win a championship at any time, and few are really putting much weight in the fact that the Spurs sit near the bottom of the playoff picture in the West. The top-10 teams in the West are all tough enough, in particular the top-7, that it is going to be a dog fight that the Spurs will indubitably be a part of.
Portland showed the first signs of contention type strength by dispatching the Houston Rockets last postseason. The Blazers have as good an ace in the hole as any with forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is nearly unguardable on the baselines and is one of the best pick and pop forwards in recent NBA history. He’s a steady 23 points and 10 rebounds per night, and helps augment a strong rotation at the 5-spot.
The Blazers use an amalgam of Meyers Leonard, Chris Kaman and Robin Lopez, sometimes playing two of the seven-footers at the same time. It renders the Blazers the league’s best rebounding team, and getting second chance looks against Portland is rare. Nicolas Batum’s impact also goes far beyond his humble statistics, and even his 1.73 steals/blocks per game isn’t fully indicative of the defensive impact he can make on a game. The Blazers have a lot of pieces in place that could give the Spurs problems, but it isn’t a point spread that should inspire a lot of confidence.
The Spurs are 0-5 in its past five games, however, versus team with winning SU records and the Trail Blazers are 1-5 in its last 6 home games versus teams with losing road records. It’s not often that the Spurs have a losing road record, but the mark is just 14-15 on the road for San Antonio this season, largely to blame for the team’s relative fall off.