“Everybody rests players in this schedule,” said San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after his team was shot out of the Rose Garden by the Portland Trail Blazers by 40-points on Tuesday, 137-97.
The Spurs went into Portland with the longest winning streak in the NBA, 11-games. Then, coach Popovich elected to choose rest over another possible win on the second night of a back-to-back, as he rested All-Star point guard Tony Parker and forward Tim Duncan.
The Blazers took advantage of the depleted Spurs lineup with outside shooting as the Blazers made 15-of-28 three pointers, led by LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points) and Jamal Crawford (20 points). The Spurs’ rookie Kawhi Leonard used the 43 minutes he played to not only play tough defense once again, but showcase his hidden offensive skills as Leonard lead the team with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, and one block.
The Spurs started rookie Cory Joseph (13 points) at points guard, and Richard Jefferson at power forward. The Blazers made the most of the smaller Spurs lineup as the Blazers went on an early 9-0 run five minutes into the first quarter to stretch their lead to nine points. The Spurs responded with their own 12-2 run two minutes later and they earned their first lead of the game, 20-19. This however, would be the Spurs’ last lead of the game.
From the moment the Spurs took the lead, the Blazers went on a blitzkrieg as they used a 22-3 run to end the first quarter leading 41-23. The Blazers were on fire behind the arc as they shot 8-of-11 from distance. Jamal Crawford had 15 points alone, while Leonard had six points. The Blazers shot 68% from the field in the first quarter.
Leonard and Gary Neal (10 points) tried to keep the Spurs competitive in the second quarter, but the Blazers still outscored the Spurs 25-20. The Spurs shot 2-of-10 outside of the paint in the second quarter as the Blazers lead 66-43 going into halftime, they were now shooting 60% in one half. Fresh signee Eric Dawson also scored his first bucket as a Spur as he made a 15-foot jumper.
The third quarter didn’t get any prettier as the Spurs went down by as much as 40 points, the Blazers put up 37 points on the scoreboard and had already scored over 100 points going into the final quarter, leading 103-65. Leonard was once again the leader for the Spurs as he scored eight points in the quarter by scoring with jump shots, steals for points, and aggressive drives to the basket.
In the fourth quarter, the Blazers’ lead got as high as 47 points. Dawson finished with nine points, six rebounds, one steal, and one block in his Spurs debut. Leonard scored five more points in the fourth quarter, but Portland was still too much as the Blazers had over six players score more than 11 points in the game.
“They busted their ass, they did as well as they could,” said coach Popovich after the game on his young squads performance. Coach Popovich also mentioned that had Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili been healthy, he would have used them and still rested Parker and Duncan.
With the loss, the Spurs are now 23-10 on the season, they’re 10-9 on the road, and 7-1 on the Rodeo Road Trip. The team will fly to Denver where they will face the Nuggets on Thursday before their five-day All-Star break begins.