Spurs Take Over In Fourth To Best Trail Blazers At Home

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers struggled at times in their first full game this season playing down two starters, but still managed to hold a slim late in the third quarter of Monday afternoon’s contest versus the Spurs.

Then the fourth quarter happened.

After exiting the third quarter trailing by five, the Trail Blazers were outscored by 16 points in the fourth quarter to come away with a 125-104 loss to the San Antonio Spurs Monday afternoon at the Moda Center.

The Trail Blazers are now 8-6 overall and 4-4 at home this season.

After defeating the Hawks Saturday night in their first game without Jusuf Nurkic (broken right wrist), the task got even tougher for the Trail Blazers with CJ McCollum sidelined for at least the next week with a left foot sprain. Rodney Hood, 11 games into his return from an Achilles injury, got the start in place of McCollum and responded by making his first four shots in the first four minutes of the first quarter.

“I knew yesterday, they said I was going to start with CJ being out,” said Hood. “Today they were telling me to be very aggressive, just get back into a rhythm, regardless if I make or miss shots, just go out there and be aggressive. Today they happened to go in, so feel good about that, it did a lot for my confidence.”

Unfortunately for Hood and the rest of the Trail Blazers, the Spurs’ shots also happened to go in early, resulting in plenty of confidence for the road team. Led by LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio shot 61 percent from the field in the first quarter and 55 percent in the second, which made Portland going into the half trailing by just five points seem like a best-case scenario.

After going down by 10 early in the third, the Trail Blazers used a 20-8 run to take their first lead since the first quarter at 80-78 with 2:24 to play in the quarter. The Blazers have had a habit lately of stiffening up considerably on the defense end in the second half and rather porous first-half performances, and after holding the Spurs to a far more reasonable 42 percent shooting from the field in and 0-of-9 shooting from three in the quarter, it seemed as though that trend might continue Monday afternoon.

But whatever it was an improvement on the defensive end from the Trail Blazers or the Spurs simply missing shots in the third, neither would carry over into the fourth. San Antonio went on a 17-2 run between the end of the third and the start of the fourth to take an 95-82 lead with 10:31 to play in regulation.

“Their little run at the start of the fourth quarter, to me, really impacted the game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was Patty Mills hitting a three, which we know that they’re going to go to him out of timeouts. And it’s Poetlt getting an offensive rebound... When Damian is out of the game we have to lock in a little bit better and kind of weather the storm better than we did. We did in the first half -- Dame sat six, seven minutes in the first half and we were able to at least stem the tide a little bit. But start of the fourth quarter hurt us.”

Then a few minutes later, the Spurs put together a 10-0 run to go up 108-91. And they’d finish Portland off for good with an 11-2 run that gave San Antonio a 20-point lead, their largest of the game at that point, with a little over three minutes to play. At that point, Stotts subbed in the end of the bench for the final few minutes of play.

“Today wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t the outcome that we wanted,” said Damian Lillard. “But we’re gonna believe in each other, we’re gonna still have a high level of accountability and we’re going to hold each other to that standard. I think next game we’ll be better and we should expect it to be better.”

Lillard led all scorers with 35 points on 10-of-23 shooting from the field, six assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block in 35 minutes. And with three three-pointers, he passed Kobe Bryant to move into 17th in NBA history in made threes. He now as 1,828 for his career, just two behind Chauncey Billups in 16th with 1,830.

Hood surpassed the number of points he had scored in the previous 11 games combined with his performance Monday afternoon, finishing with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 25 minutes.

“I feel like I got off to a better flow, just being in the game,” said Hood. “Sometimes when you come off the bench, you never know when you coming in. I just had a good flow coming in, Dame was trying to get me going real early, coaches trying to get me going real early because they know down the long stretch of the season, I’m gonna need to be back to myself. So today was a good start for me.”

Carmelo Anthony was the only other Trail Blazer to break double figured in scoring, going 6-of-13 from the field for 14 points in 26 minutes.

Six Spurs scored in double figures, with four of those passing the 20-point threshold. Aldridge had 22 points to go with two rebounds in 24 minutes. Patty Mills and Rudy Gay each added 21 off the bench -- San Antonio’s reserves outscored Portlaned’s 59-25 -- and DeRozan went 6-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from three for 20 points to go with 11 assists for the double-double in 32 minutes.

Next up, the Trail Blazers reach the midway point of a seven-game homestand by hosting the Grizzlies in the first of two consecutive games versus the Memphis club Wednesday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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