Trail Blazers vs Spurs Thursday, 12/13/12 AT 07:30PM

Lillard Shines In Big Win Over Spurs

12/13/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    It was Damian Lillard's show in front of a national television audience against the San Antonio Spurs. Lillard played exceptionally with a career-high 29 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. The Trail Blazers (10-12) outplayed the Spurs (18-6) from the tip. This was the fourth time Lillard has gotten at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, something no other rookie has ever done in the history of the NBA.

    In the previous match-up between these two teams, the Spurs shot 57 percent. Tonight, Damian Lillard said the Trail Blazers played with more "urgency" on the defensive end.

    "We were running them off the three-point line. In the last game they had a lot of open threes," Lillard said.

    After allowing the Spurs a lot of open space in the last game, the Trail Blazers occupied that space better tonight. Everybody on the Trail Blazers team was getting in the act. They were boxing out better. They were defending pick and rolls better and they made the winning plays that winning teams make against a team that knows all about it. But of course, there was also The Rookie.

    Lillard was masterful after a slow start offensively. As the game carried on, Lillard continued to find the space he needed. In front of a nationally televised honest (Lillard says he didn't really think about it, of course) Lillard had his most visible advertisement for the Rookie of The Year award. He started the game three for eight and picked up two quick fouls but hit eight of his final 14 shots.

    "He did a nice job changing up jump shots and drives. It seemed like he was taking what the game gave him," Stotts said of Lillard's game.

    Lillard exploded in the third quarter to score 12 of his 27 points. Nicolas Batum is no longer surprised by games like this from Lillard.

    "He did everything. I'm not really surprised right now about Damian. I was surprised a couple of weeks ago," Batum said.

    LaMarcus Aldridge was in a battle with Tim Duncan all night long and more than held his own against the Hall of Famer, with 22 points and six rebounds. Duncan scored 16 and grabbed six rebounds on the evening. Aldridge had to scratch and claw his way into position on every possession as Duncan is still one of the game's great players and defenders. Aldridge answered the call.

    Also, in the previous meeting between these teams, the Trail Blazers only had four bench points. This evening they had 24. Luke Babbitt, Sasha Pavlovic and Meyers Leonard played big rolls off the bench. Babbitt scored 12 points on five of 10 shooting and also played good defense despite not grabbing rebound. Leonard had eight rebounds and Pavlovic notched 32 minutes off the bench and had a nice line of six points, four steals (a career high), four rebounds and two assists. Victor Claver started the game for the Trail Blazers and brought some good defense (two steals) and was able to help direct traffic on the wing despite not hitting a shot on four attempts.

    The Trail Blazers were still in a tight one. For the first time this year, they were in control from start to finish. Stotts preached to his team that the Spurs always take advantage of team's mental lapses. This game lacked the "lulls" that have plagued the Trail Blazers and the ones that often plague young teams. Tonight, the focus was there in every quarter. In the final frame, JJ Hickson and Nicolas Batum made the big plays to win the game. Batum hit a big three to put the Trail Blazers up by six after Hickson grabbed an offensive rebound. Two of Hickson's five rebounds in the fourth were offensive and none were bigger than that one.

    "JJ may have won us the game. The rebound he got with about a minute and a half, that extra possession was big," Stotts said. Hickson even surprised his coach with a move he hadn't seen yet. "Obviously the running hook in the lane-I hadn't seen that one yet-that was a big play."

    That play came late in the shot clock and it was one that they needed to win.

    "It was a team effort obviously. When you win games like this, you look at a lot of people. A lot of people did a lot of good things," Stotts said.

    A Batum block on his buddy Tony Parker after his big three basically sealed the game. The Spurs had a lot of good looks for threes down the stretch, they just didn't go down. The Trail Blazers made the winning plays, but in the end, the spotlight was brightest on Lillard this evening.

    "He's aggressive, he's not afraid of contact, but he's got a real fine demeanor and understanding of what's going on out on the court. He can shoot it and he can drive it, and I think he works hard on D. He's a fine young player," said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

    To say that this win is a turning point is obviously too soon for anybody to say. However, right now, the Trail Blazers can look at this one and finally say that they can play a complete 48 minutes. Batum had been harping on the team all year to be consistent from the tip until the final buzzer and tonight they did just that for their second straight win. Lillard said the team has been "locked in" all week but Batum knows that this good week can't be ruined by a let down.

    "Now we have to finish this week. We have a game Sunday against New Orleans so we can finish this week with three in a row. We have a huge stretch at home, three more games at home before we go on the road, so if we can get these three and get back to .500, it can be good."

    The Trail Blazers next game is against the New Orleans Hornets (5-16) and number one pick Anthony Davis on Sunday. That game will be at 6PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 KEX and 102.3 FM.

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