When the Portland Trail Blazers (2-3) host the San Antonio Spurs (2-2) on Friday night, it will be a match up between two teams with high expectations, but who are struggling at the start of the regular season. Opening tip for the game is scheduled for 7:30 PST at the Rose Garden and the game will be televised to a national audience on ESPN.
The Trail Blazers enter this game coming off of a disappointing 97-91 loss to Atlanta. As has been the problem throughout the beginning of the season, Portland could find no way to slow down the opposing back court. Jamal Crawford came off of the bench to score 27 points and also dish out seven assists. Joe Johnson showed why he is considered one of the best clutch performers in the league, scoring seven of his 19 points in the final quarter. Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan knows his team is close to clicking, but is still looking for the effort to pick up defensively.
"The fact of the matter is you've got to play defense," McMillan emphasized after the loss. "That's something that we've talked about and we've got to get it out on the court."
LaMarcus Aldridge put together his finest performance of the season in the loss. Aldridge recorded his first double double, with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and also showed no signs of the injury that kept him out of the second half against Oklahoma City. Even more encouraging is the chemistry that seems to be developing between Aldridge and Andre Miller. Miller found Aldridge with four of his game-high 11 assists, and the two of them worked the pick and roll at an extremely high level.
Last season marked the first time since 1999-2000 that the Trail Blazers won the season series against San Antonio. In fact, prior to the 100-99 win in the home opener last season, Portland has lost 12 consecutive games to the Spurs. The Trail Blazers have now won the last two games in this series, and will look for Brandon Roy to carry over his solid performance against the Spurs from last season, which saw him average 23 points per game in the four meetings. In order to continue their recent success against San Antonio, the Trail Blazers will have to slow down Tony Parker, who averaged 23.8 points and 7.8 assists against Portland last year.
San Antonio will arrive in Portland after a tough 113-99 loss in Utah. Although he isn't scoring at the rate that most fans are accustomed to, Tim Duncan remains one of the elite centers in the NBA. Duncan is averaging 14.7 points and 12.7 rebounds, while attempting to get comfortable playing with Richard Jefferson. Jefferson, who came over from Milwaukee in a trade during the offseason, is still struggling to find his comfort level in San Antonio. However, Jefferson is an explosive athlete who provides San Antonio with a new level of athleticism and skill on the perimeter.
Nicolas Batum, Patty Mills, and Jeff Pendergraph remain on the injury list for Portland. While the game can be seen on ESPN, Trail Blazers fans can also tune into the game on KGW-TV. For those fans who won't be around a television, 95.5 FM The Fan will have a live broadcast available. Antonio Harvey and Brian Wheeler will have the call for the radio audience.