Spurs-Trail Blazers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 13, 2012
The Portland Trail Blazers are in a much less enviable position than the San Antonio Spurs, though they played to the Southwest Division leaders' level in a tough loss last month. Both teams may look different this time around. Portland could be without Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews for a second straight game Thursday night when it hosts San Antonio, which is coming off its first loss in December. The Blazers (9-12) are in last place in the Northwest Division and had dropped six of their last eight games before a 92-74 victory over Toronto on Monday. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, which earned the win despite setting an NBA record for most 3-point attempts without a make by going 0 for 20. "I don't want to break records like that,'' Aldridge said. J.J. Hickson added 16 points and 11 rebounds. "It felt great to know we could be down a couple of players and still get the win,'' Hickson said. "We knew we were going to have to play extra hard because we were short-handed, but guys stepped up and we got the win.'' Matthews, who missed the first game of his four-year career with a strained hip flexor, joked he and Batum (back pain) made as many 3-pointers as their teammates in uniform Monday, but became serious when discussing his injury and chances of playing Thursday. "It's feeling better but not (close) to where it needs to be," Matthews said. "Slightly concerned but still optimistic. Taking it day by day right now." Batum seems closer to returning, though he'll likely be a game-time decision. "It's not 100 percent, but it's better," Batum said. "I'm hopeful for Thursday." Batum scored a game-high 33 points and Aldridge added 29 against the Spurs on Nov. 10, but Gary Neal's 27 points and Tim Duncan's 22 helped San Antonio end a seven-game losing streak in Portland with a 112-109 win. Tony Parker sat out that contest with the flu, but he won't miss this matchup as he looks to help the Spurs (18-5) bounce back from a 99-96 loss at the buzzer in Utah on Wednesday that ended a five-game winning streak. Parker and Duncan, who had a season-high 21 rebounds, finished with 22 points apiece, but Mo Williams hit a 3-pointer as time expired to deal San Antonio its first loss of the month. "It was disappointing down the stretch,'' said Duncan, who also had six blocks. "Individually I made too many mistakes. I missed a jumper on the baseline I thought was down. ... Just too many mistakes down the stretch that we couldn't recover from.'' The Spurs, who conclude a four-game road trip Thursday, hit only 42.5 percent from the field after shooting 52.5 percent and winning by an average of 17.8 points over their previous four games. San Antonio is 4-1 on the second end of back-to-back games this season, with the only loss coming when Popovich infamously rested four starters in Miami on Nov. 29.
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