The Portland Trail Blazers will look to continue their strong start to the season when they open a three-game homestand against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.
Portland has won nine of its first 13 games to sit in a tie for first place with Denver in the Western Conference. The start is even more impressive due to six-time All-Star guard Damian Lillard missing five contests because of a calf strain.
Lillard was in fine form on Saturday, putting up 29 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, but the Trail Blazers lost 117-112 to the Dallas Mavericks to complete a 4-2 trip. The excursion included victories over the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat.
“I think it was a great road trip for us, could have been great with this one,” Lillard said afterward. “Obviously if you told us we was going to get 4-2 when we left Portland, we would have said we’ll take it.
“Wish we would have been able to get this one, but 4-2 going back home for a short stretch is fine with me.”
Lillard is averaging 28.6 points as one of three Portland players topping 20 per game. Anfernee Simons is averaging 22.3 and Jerami Grant 20.7.
Grant scored a season-best 37 on 13-of-22 shooting against Dallas. He has tallied at least 23 in five of the past six games and is averaging 25.7 during that stretch.
Big man Jusuf Nurkic (adductor soreness) is listed as questionable for Tuesday after missing the previous three games.
The Trail Blazers have routinely dealt with injuries, as Josh Hart is the lone starter who has played all 13 games. Reserves Drew Eubanks and Nassir Little also haven’t missed any time.
Lillard likes how the team has dealt with adversity.
“I think the main thing I’ve learned is that we are really together through the good, the bad, the struggles, the ups and downs, especially over the course of a game,” he said. “And that’s a good sign for a team.”
Not much went right for the Spurs on Monday as they were drubbed 132-95 by the Golden State Warriors at San Francisco in the opener of a five-game trip.
San Antonio was outscored 99-69 over the final three quarters. The Spurs shot just 25 percent (10 of 40) from 3-point range while Golden State knocked down 51.1 percent from deep (23 of 45).
Tre Jones missed his first game of the season due to a stomach illness, and San Antonio badly missed the third-year pro, who is averaging 12.3 points and a team-high 6.6 assists.
“It would have been great to have Tre, but the Warriors played better than we did in every facet,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We didn’t move it very well. I thought we were a little bit soft. They shot it very well; we didn’t. The ball didn’t move, so we got beat pretty good.”
Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan, picked ninth overall in this year’s draft, was tabbed to start at point guard and had 12 points and seven rebounds in 24 1/2 minutes but committed three turnovers without recording an assist.
“We had been talking about it for a while now and running it in practice and stuff,” Sochan said afterward of playing the point. “It comes naturally for me to see the court.”
Keldon Johnson scored 15 points and Keita Bates-Diop added 12 for San Antonio, which has dropped six of its past seven games after starting 5-2.
The Spurs swept all four meetings with the Trail Blazers last season by an average of 27 points.
–Field Level Media