Tuesday, the Portland Trail Blazers picked up a very comfortable victory against the lowly Washington Wizards in an attempt to bolster their playoff position in the Western Conference. Gerald Wallace had perhaps his best game in Portland, with a stat line of 28 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assist and was backed by Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, who provided 22 points apiece.
Tonight, they’ll be going up against the top dogs in the West. The traditional powerhouse San Antonio Spurs will be the Rose Garden’s visiting team, and will look to take this game to get their playoff rotations set. Although, they have stumbled a little recently, with Tim Duncan hurting his ankle earlier this week. Even so, they will be tough to contend with regardless.
What makes the injury even more expendable is the fact that Duncan is averaging the fewest minutes, fewest points, and fewest rebounds in his entire career. This is more of a playoff preparation tactic if anything, although it has netted the Spurs an extremely successful season to this point. Instead, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have functioned as the main options in Gregg Popovich’s latest reincarnation of a fundamentally sound franchise.
The Trail Blazers will go with the same starting lineup as they did last game against the Washington Wizards. That lineup consisted of LaMarcus Aldridge slotting in at the center spot, Gerald Wallace manning power forward, Nicolas Batum taking position at small forward, Wesley Matthews beginning as the shooting guard and Andre Miller holding the ball at point guard. Even though Marcus Camby is expected to return tonight, he is expected to come off of the bench.
For the Spurs, DeJuan Blair will line up as center. Although he is only 6’7’’, his rebounding ability and hustle more than make up for his lack of height. Antonio McDyess should get the nod at power forward, with the relatively untested Tiago Splitter also getting a lion’s share of Tim Duncan’s minutes. Richard Jefferson assumes the starting small forward position, and provides consistent all-around play as a complimentary piece in this Spurs offense. The two powder kegs of the 2010-2011 edition of the San Antonio Spurs are Manu Ginobili, at shooting guard, and Tony Parker handling the point guard responsibilities. George Hill serves as an able backup to either of these two, and his production off the bench is key to the Spurs plans.
With Marcus Camby expected to come off the bench tonight, and Armon Johnson’s knee healing, the Trail Blazers have no injuries to report, aside from Greg Oden and Eliot Williams, who are already out for the season.
For the Spurs, the aforementioned Tim Duncan is injured with a sprained ankle, and may not return until the playoffs get underway. At this point in the season, this would prove to be the Spurs’ best option.
San Antonio hasn’t looked very dominant as of late, not playing at the blistering pace and efficiency that they had earlier in the season. Of course, no team (save the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls) can maintain a breakneck run like they did. However, like most elite teams do, San Antonio’s focus is on the playoffs. Portland’s focus is to achieve a better position in the Western Conference standings, and possibly acquire a favorable first-round matchup. They’ll have to win most of their remaining games on the schedule to do that, and those games won’t be easy.
If they can control the offensive glass and harass the Spurs’ weakened interior presence, Portland will win by around a 5-point margin.