Here are two teams sitting near the top teams in the West, who will face off tonight, Portland Trail Blazers has a fair 4-4 record, and San Antonio Spurs is doing better at 5-2.
LaMarcus Aldridge will make some history tonight since he will probably be considered as one of the great Portland Trail Blazers of all time, his return to town could be met with jeers instead of cheers.
It will be the first time Aldridge will face the team that drafted him, for the first time tonight when his San Antonio Spurs will try to defeat the Trail Blazers a third straight time.
For the first nine seasons of his career, the power forward was with Portland. He’s second on the franchise’s all-time list in points (12,562), first in rebounds (5,434) and fourth in games (648).
Aldridge was a pretty big fan favorite with the Blazers. Though many changed their views on that when he left to sign a four-year contract worth $84.1 million with the Spurs this offseason as a free agent.
His deal came down after one short year, where he had vowed to local reporters in Portand that the would sign an extension deal because he wanted to out do Clyde Drexler as the team’s all-time best scorer. And because he claimed he wanted to and play his entire career with one team, Portland.
But alas, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich were able to give a persuasive pitch and convince Dallas native Aldridge, to come back to his home state and help San Antonio go after its fifth title in 14 seasons.
But the move hasn’t really gone that smooth, Aldridge so far has only averaged 15.1 points after he averaged a career-high 23.4 last season for Portland. So the transition has not kicked off as planned.
His departure came in on the heels of the Blazers banking their future on Damian Lillard, who just signed a five-year contract worth more than $120 million in the off season. Lillard is among the league’s leaders with a 27.5 scoring average. He has had a rough go of it shouldering the scoring load without Aldridge.
Lillard has put up some offense, totalling 56 points and 18 assists in consecutive defeats entering tonight’s game.
“I am not frustrated,” Lillard told media. “As a competitor, after you lose a game, you sit there and you think about everything you could have done better as a team. You aren’t happy with it. But I’m happy with where we are as a team.”
The Blazers still have one of the league’s best offenses, averaging 103.8 points and shooting 46.7 percent. So the Spurs will be up against a team that is a lot better than its record shows.
San Antonio is shooting pretty well, at 48.8 percent after connecting at a hot 52.9 percent in Monday’s 106-88 victory at Sacramento. Kawhi Leonard, has made 20 of his last 29 shots, scoring a team-high 24 points in that outing.
The Spurs know how to play and showcase their depth, and that’s exactly what they did in outscoring the Kings 34-19 in a fourth quarter in which Tim Duncan and Tony Parker did not play a second. They had 24 bench 24 points in that period. And adding to that was former Blazers guard, Patty Mills, who had a great game himself racking up seven points, six assists and four steals.
“I understand you can’t live and die off your shot, so if my shot is not falling I have to do other things,” said Mills to media post game, who earlier missed 6 of 7 shots through three quarters. “I’m trying to become more of an all-around player.”
The Spurs’ reserves average 36.4 points compared to 23.8 per game from the Blazers’ backups. And those point differentials could end up making the difference in tonight’s game.
But strangely enough, San Antonio has lost 11 of its last 13 regular-season visits to Portland, including eight of nine in which Duncan has played at the Moda Center. Portland may have a small advtange being at home and having an extra big man to throw at San Antonio’s frontcourt, as rookie Cliff Alexander just might make his debut after being out of play with a knee injury. So we’ll give the slight upperhand to the home team on this one.
Our Prediction: Blazers over Spurs, 110-102