Blazers out to continue trend against visiting Spurs

NBA Basketball

The Portland Trail Blazers have won five of their last six and will look to stay hot when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Monday afternoon.

Both teams won Saturday. The Trail Blazers relied on Damian Lillard’s 36 points and stout second-half defense to outlast Atlanta 112-106, while the Spurs came back from a double-digit first-half deficit to beat short-handed Houston 103-91.

Portland was forced to mount its own comeback against the Hawks without CJ McCollum, who scored 16 first-half points but did not play in the second half due to a sprained left foot. The Blazers limited Atlanta to 20 points in each of the final two quarters and roared back after trailing by seven at halftime.

“We should be proud of ourselves and the effort that we had in the second half,” Lillard said. “We know that first half wasn’t good enough. This was a game we had to have.”

Enes Kanter had 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Blazers. Gary Trent Jr. added 18 points, Carmelo Anthony hit for 11 off the bench, Derrick Jones Jr. scored 10 and Robert Covington had 10 rebounds for Portland.

“Our team defense in the second half really stood out,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said after the win.

Stotts said after the game that McCollum underwent an MRI and that his injury was just a sprain. He will be a game-time decision Monday.

McCollum’s injury comes after center Jusuf Nurkic broke his right wrist Thursday night during a loss to Indiana at home. Nurkic will be sidelined for at least eight weeks after undergoing surgery.

The Spurs rebounded from a loss Thursday to Houston with an emphasis on defense, especially late in the game, in Saturday’s rematch. The Rockets, despite suiting up just eight players (the league-mandated minimum) were up to the task until the final five minutes.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points in Saturday’s win, while Jakob Poeltl and Dejounte Murray added double doubles, as the Spurs were at their best when fatigue finally got to Houston. The win snapped San Antonio’s four-game home losing streak.

“We played our best defense in the fourth quarter, which is a good idea,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We held them to 19 in that quarter, as the defense picked up and gave us a chance. We knocked down a few shots toward the end, so that’s what we’ve been used to.”

Murray had 18 points and 10 rebounds for San Antonio, with Poeltl scoring 13 and collecting 11 rebounds. Keldon Johnson and Patty Mills added 11 points each.

“We just fought hard,” Murray said. “We came in with the same game plan, but I think we started off real slow. We picked it up. The effort was there in the fourth quarter. We just stuck with it and won the game.”

The Spurs, who have won five of their past seven games, led 75-72 heading into the fourth quarter and 85-82 with 7:54 remaining before putting together a late 10-0 run to take a 100-85 lead and finish off Houston.

“We just focused in the fourth quarter, we really locked in and didn’t want them to get into the paint,” Poeltl said. “Tonight Houston was undersized and I really tried to get in there and be aggressive on the glass, try to use my size against them, and it worked out.”

–Field Level Media

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