Blazers Go Up Big, Down Big In Victory Versus Spurs

by Casey Holdahl
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SAN ANTONIO -- The Portland Trail Blazers led by as many as 23 points in the second quarter and trailed by as many as 15 in the fourth before coming away with a 121-116 victory versus the San Antonio Spurs in front of a sellout crowd of 18,534 Saturday night at the AT&T Center.

"It was almost like the last game we played them: got off to such a great start, shot the ball well, they made a comeback, took the lead," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stott. "It was a great game. It's hard to explain the ebb and flows of a game like this."

The Trail Blazers are now 5-8 overall and 3-4 on the road this season. The win is Portland's first in their last three games and is their first victory versus the Spurs in their last three tries.

“Super important (win)," said Damian Lillard. "We took a loss to Sacramento then another loss at home. We got another long road trip, four games under .500, it was huge for us to not only get a win on the road to begin the trip, but just to start the trip the right way."

Thanks to shooting truly blistering percentages from both the field (76 percent) and three (64 percent) in the first quarter, the Blazers scored a season-best 41 points in the first quarter to take a 18 points lead into the second quarter.

And after scoring the first five points of the second, Portland took what would be their largest lead of the game at 46-23 with 11:08 to play in the first half. But from there, issues started to foment. So despite 15 second-quarter points from CJ McCollum, San Antonio managed to outscore Portland by 10 in the quarter to go into the half trailing 66-58.

"When we were up, we weren't coming into the huddle like 'Ah, don't blow the lead, we did it last time,'" said Damian Lillard. "It was just like, keep doing what we doing, it's a long game. I think even in those situations when you start the game hot and you defending well and you making shots, especially when you're on the road, the other team is gonna have a run, they gonna turn it around."

And they certainly did. After Lillard free throws gave the Blazers a 15-point lead with 9:37 to play in the third, the Spurs finished out the quarter on a 30-11 run to take their first lead of the game late in the third and a 96-90 advantage into the fourth quarter.

San Antonio's third-quarter momentum carried over to the start of the fourth, with the home team going on a 10-1 run to take their largest lead at 106-91 with 8:32 to play. And considering the issues the Blazers have recently had both in keeping leads and closing out games in the fourth quarter, up to and including in games this season against the Spurs, it seemed more than likely that Portland would start a six-game trip with a loss.

But the Blazers, just as the Spurs had done in the second and third quarters, slowly began to trim away at San Antonio's lead. And what's more, it wasn't Lillard or McCollum leading the comeback, but Hassan Whiteside, Rodney Hood and Nassir Little.

Down seven with just under four minutes to play, Whiteside finished an and-1 finger roll, making the free throw for the three-point play. Then Little finished a high-flying dunk off a McCollum dish.

After McCollum tied the game at 111-111 on a putback of his own missed floater, Little made another big play, grabbing an offensive rebound and creating another possession. And on that ensuing possession, Rodney Hood made a one-handed shot over DeMar DeRozan and was fouled on the attempt. Hood made the free throw to reclaim the lead at 114-111 with 1:21 to play in regulation.

"I can't take credit for that one," said Hood. "If Nas didn't get the offensive rebound I wouldn't have gotten to that. I give him a lot of credit. For him to be in that situation after not really playing a lot this year, he's taking full advantage of it. His energy really does a boost for us... He really was the MVP, he made big plays tonight."

The same could be said for Whiteside, especially late. The 7-0 center blocked a DeRozan attempt at the rim with 37 seconds to play, with DeRozan called for a foul for pulling Whiteside to the ground. The Spurs challenged the call, with the officials deciding that DeRozan committed a loose ball foul on Whiteside, sending the center to the line with Portland leading by a point. A career 60 percent free throw shooter, Whiteside made both free throws to give Portland a 116-113 advantage.

“Hassan played a terrific fourth quarter at both ends," said Stotts. "He scored for us and finished around the bucket, he made his free throws, he was a big presence at the rim, deterred a lot of shots. He really made a difference.”

The Spurs would fail to score again, while Lillard iced the game with five-straight free throws to officially finish off the comeback.

“They had a lot of momentum, on the road against a team that plays really well here," said Stotts. "It was like last game. We had a 19-point lead and then they had a 19-point lead. I was really proud of the way we continued to battle because it’s easy to kind of fall prey to it when things aren’t going your way and I thought, hopefully that’s a big step for us.”

The Trail Blazers were led by McCollum, who went 13-of-25 from the field and 6-of-11 from three for 32 points to go with seven assists, six rebounds and a steal in 38 minutes.

Lillard scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half while also tallying six assists, six rebounds and a steal in 40 minutes. Rodney Hood added 16 points, including a late-game and-1 that reclaimed the lead for the Blazers, four rebounds and two assists.

Whiteside scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 21 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in 35 minutes.

The Spurs were led by LaMarcus Aldridge, who put up 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting. Bryn Forbes added 17 and both DDeRozan and Rudy Gay added 16.

Next up, the Trail Blazers visit Houston, the second stop of a six-game trip, to face the Rockets Monday night at the Toyota Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.


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