Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/13/12
Back to the competition The Portland Trail Blazers have wrapped up the easy part of their early-season schedule, and they’ll be hosting the San Antonio Spurs at the Rose Garden Thursday night. Matchup: Portland (9-12) vs. San Antonio (18-5) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:30 PM PT Date: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 The Blazers haven’t played a true contender in weeks, and it will be interesting to see how they react to the stars coming to town. Game Notes/How They Match Up The San Antonio Spurs will be the Blazers’ biggest challenge in weeks. (Photo: AP) Assuming that the San Antonio Spurs travel their stars (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker), this is going to be a matchup between a team that is trying to find its identity versus a team that has been a dynasty for more than a decade. For those who thought the Blazers were a good offensive team, get ready to be surprised by the Spurs. Gregg Popovich’s squad, which was once known for its methodical, defensive mindset, is now averaging the second-most points in the entire NBA. Unfortunately for Portland, they are going up against a defense that is also 14th in the league. Scoring is going to be crucial for the Blazers, as San Antonio has the edge on both sides of the floor. What to Watch: Portland The Trail Blazers shot 0-for-20 from behind the three-point line against the Toronto Raptors earlier this week, but luckily for them, they were going up against one of the worst teams in the entire NBA. A shooting performance like that isn’t going to cut it against San Antonio, so hitting from behind the arc is going to be a focal point Thursday night. If Portland isn’t making their shots, they have no chance. San Antonio averages 105.9 points per game and they only allow 97.3. The perimeter defense of the Spurs gives up just 34.2 percent from behind the three-point line, which means that the Blazers have to be on their game. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum were both absent in the team’s game against Toronto, and if they’re able to return Thursday, that will be a step in the right direction to regaining their shot. What to Watch: San Antonio The Spurs play the fifth-fastest pace in the NBA, which is going to be a problem for a Portland squad that is the fifth-worst team in transition defense. San Antonio may be getting older by the day, but they have the players on their roster to get out and run. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will tire their opponents all game long, and even the team’s role players have adopted that same mentality. The Blazers allow their opponents to run, and San Antonio will look to take advantage. The key matchup in Saturday’s contest is between Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge. (Photo: Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian) Key Matchup As long as Tim Duncan plays in this contest, the key matchup is going to be at the power forward position. Duncan has seemingly turned back time with his performance this season. He is averaging 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds, not to mention 2.43 blocks. He is going to provide a huge challenge to the much younger LaMarcus Aldridge, and he is going to test him from every spot on the floor inside the three-point line. LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t going to go quietly, though, as he’ll do plenty of testing of his own. Aldridge will look to spread the floor against San Antonio’s defense with his jump shot, and he’ll look to get out and run against the older Duncan. Tony Parker versus Damian Lillard is going to be a fun matchup to watch, as well, but the Blazers’ success has been on the shoulders of Aldridge as of late, and the battle on the block could be what decides this game. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Damian Lillard, Niciolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Sasha Pavlovic San Antonio Spurs: N/A Prediction The Blazers are up for a challenge against the Spurs, and it’s difficult to imagine them taking down a contender if their shooting struggles continue. Blazers 88 – San Antonio 103 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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