Blazers Rally Behind The Bench And Defense To Defeat Spurs Without Dame

by Casey Holdahl
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SAN ANTONIO -- On the road, down 16 to the Spurs with under six minutes to play in the third quarter and with no Damian Lillard there to save the day.

Nevertheless, Trail Blazers win.

The Trail Blazers got 39 points from their bench, outscored the Spurs by 10 points in the second half and forced timely turnovers in the fourth quarter to come away with a 107-106 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 4,303 Friday night at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

“I think it was an important win,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “San Antonio is kind of hovering around in the seven, eight, nine spot. To get this on the road -- it seems like we always have some good battles against San Antonio -- to get a win without Dame was very important. The way we came back down 16 was important. To find a way to finish a game was important. So I think there were a lot of positives to take from this game.”

The Trail Blazers are now 32-23 overall and 16-11 on the road this season. With the win, the Trail Blazers remain in sixth-place, one spot out of the playoff play-in range, in the Western Conference with 17 games to play.

With Lillard sitting out Friday’s game due to right hamstring tendinopathy, things kind of got off to a rough start offensively for the Trail Blazers, though they managed to do just enough to keep it close in the first quarter. They managed to answer San Antonio going up 10 with 3:19 to play in the first, with a 9-2 run to cut the advantage to 31-28 by the end of the quarter.

Though it would be the Spurs that went on a mini run at the end of the first half, going 8-2 in the final two minutes and 15 seconds to take a nine-point lead into the intermission.

The Spurs would carry that momentum over into the third quarter, going up by as 16 points, twice. And when the second time occurred with less than six minutes to play in the third, it seemed as if the Trail Blazers might once again get “put away” in the second half by a good team on the road.

But rather than rolling over, they responded. Carmelo Anthony earned a couple of trips to the free throw line, CJ McCollum find his touch from midrange and Anfernee Simons provided both scoring and energy off the bench to help Portland outscore San Antonio 24-10 in the final 4:43 of the third to cut the lead to just two going into the fourth quarter.

“We got down 16, it wasn’t looking good,” said Stotts. “I thought our bench -- Melo, Enes and Anfernee Simons -- all did a terrific job coming off the bench, they got us back in the game in the third quarter with a little bit of everything. With their shotmaking, with their defense, rebounds. We just started to play a lot better in the third quarter.”

The lead would change seven times in the fourth quarter after changing just seven times in the previous three quarters combined. The Blazers score the first five points of the fourth, the Spurs answer with six-straight. Portland answers that with back-to-back threes from Norman Powell and Robert Covington, Dejounte Murray hits a three of his own to give the lead back to the home team. It went on like this for almost the entirety of the fourth, so the first team that managed to get a few stops was likely to come out on top.

Those stops came courtesy of Robert Covington, who got two steals in the final three minutes, including a steal off a Lonnie Walker pass that resulted in a go-ahead fastbreak for Powell layup -- Jakob Poeltl was called for a goaltend -- that would give the Trail Blazers the lead on what would ultimately be the final score of the game.

“I saw RoCo get the steal and I was just trying to see what (White) was going to do,” recounted Powell. “I was kind of inching forward to make him commit, as soon as I saw him commit I picked up my speed. I should have dunked it -- I just saw the replay of it -- but I was trying to get to the glass and get the basket and finish.”

Though it wasn’t over just yet. On the next possession, Powell hounded DeMar DeRozan, as he had done for much of the second half, forcing his former teammate to shoot a tough 15-footer that was off.

“Down the stretch, Coach made an emphasis of making sure I guarded DeMar,” said Powell. “I always have a lot of fun guarding DeMar in the summer and all the history with being on the same team and him being my vet, knowing his moves and tendencies and staying down on the shot fake, things like that. I take the challenge to guard the best players so I’m definitely guarding him.”

Poeltl got the rebound and found Rudy Gay relatively open at the top of the three-point line, his the attempt, just his third of the night, missed the mark as well. Poetlt managed another offensive rebound, but with time expiring, the San Antonio center had to take a shot well out of his standard range, and with another miss, time expired and Portland earned one of their better wins in the last month.

“Long misses,” said McCollum. “The ball bounces in the air and you’re just looking like, alright, if he gets this, who is he going to pass it to? (Jason) Tatum made it against me (in Tuesday’s loss to the Celtics) and they missed tonight. Make or miss league.”

McCollum led all scorers with 29 points on 13-of-26 shooting, six assists, two rebounds, a block and a steal in 38 minutes. Powell went 8-of-17 and 4-of-4 from the free throw line for 22 points, four assists, two rebounds, a block and a steal, also in 38 minutes.

Simons, who saw his minutes increase dramatically with Lillard sidelined, turned in one of this best performances of the season with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, 4-of-8 shooting from three, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 30 minutes.

Kanter had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds and Anthony contributed 13 points and three rebounds off the bench.

DeRozan led the Spurs with 26 points and 10 assists. Poeltl had 17 points and eight rebounds.

The Trail Blazers will now travel to Charlotte to face the Hornets Sunday night before heading back home to Portland. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.


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