In a game of runs, the San Antonio Spurs run out of gas down the stretch – Pounding The Rock

Given how the Golden State game started, it was easy for the Spurs to begin their matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers better. They certainly did so, as they led 16-4 after just 3:46 of game play. Unfortunately, they only scored 13 points over the remaining 8:14 and ended up trailing 30-29 at the end of the quarter. Jakob Poeltl, on the way to a career night, led the way after one with nine points. On the other end, it was the rookie Shaedon Sharpe who helped give the Blazers the lead. He came off the bench and provided a much-needed spark, scoring 10 points on 4-5 shooting.

The Spurs came out in the second quarter similar to how they started the game. They used an 11-2 run to take a 40-32 lead with 8:47 left – capped off by an Isaiah Roby dunk that we’ll come to later. And similar to the first quarter, their lead was for naught. After a Charles Bassey bucket put the Spurs up 48-40 with 5:49 left in the half, the Blazers went on a 22-8 run to take a 62-56 lead into the locker room.

The third quarter felt more like a track meet, as two of the youngest teams in the league let the youth do their thing. The back-and-forth play meant there were more points scored than any of the other quarters, but that also led to a lot of passes that wound up in the stands rather than in hands. This was the only quarter of the game that didn’t have a lead change, but the Spurs found just enough scoring to keep things close, thanks to a little help from Keita Bates-Diop and Doug McDermott. If you want to have some fun, go ahead and read the play-by-play of that quarter.

Again, as they did in the first and second quarters, the Spurs started off the fourth extremely well. A 17-7 run over the first 5:10 of the quarter gave the Spurs a 106-100 lead. San Antonio fans went crazy as they watched Jakob make bucket after bucket, but these were his last points. The final 6:50 of the game was owned by the Blazers. There were some open looks the Spurs just missed. I couldn’t tell you if it was the moment, the inexperience, the defense, or something else, but they could only able to manage two baskets over that stretch. Instead of Dame taking over, it was a complete team effort from Portland. Jakob’s career-high 31 points weren’t enough, as the Spurs lost, 117-100, and fell to 6-9 on the year.

Game Notes

  • Jeremy Sochan just keeps getting better night after night. He might not blow you away on the box score, but his defense, hustle, playmaking, and all the other little things he does right make him the ultimate teammate. At halftime, he had four points, four assists, and two rebounds, but led the team in plus/minus at +19. He guards everybody, from Damian Lillard to Jerami Grant. He’s just such a joy to watch every game. Toward the end of the game, when it entered what’s known as Dame Time in Portland, he even blocked a Dame three-point attempt. If it weren’t for foul trouble, he might have helped lead the Spurs to a win, given he ended as a +18 in 27 minutes.
  • One of the reasons the Spurs were pegged to be toward the bottom of the standings was the depth of their roster. How this season has played out hasn’t helped that depth, but you play the hand you’re dealt. And tonight, if the starters are the two cards you hold in Texas Hold ‘Em and the bench are the community cards, the Spurs were dealt pocket aces and the community cards were a two, five, seven, nine, and jack (meaning they amounted to nothing). Keita Bates-Diop had a few good minutes when he scored six straight points, but that was it. It seemed like every time the bench came into the game, the Blazers were able to find their rhythm and make a run.
  • Jakob played probably his best game of the season. Heck, he might’ve played the best game of his career. He was hyperefficient tonight, and at one point, took Nurkic to the hole from outside the three-point line for a layup. He ended the night with a career-high 31 points and added 14 rebounds and five assists. His defensive stats might not have been what he’s had in prior games, but he was certainly felt on that end. The Blazers only had 46 points in the paint, which is a key indicator of an interior defender’s impact. It was the kind of game that reminds you of why his name gets floated in trade rumors.
  • Jerami Grant was one of the best signings of the offseason. While CJ McCollum was a great running mate for Dame, Grant seems to be an even better fit. His shooting, size, and quickness make him a tough matchup. He can take bigger defenders off the dribble and bully the smaller ones on the block. Tonight, he did most of his damage from behind the arc, making six of eight attempts, en route to scoring 29 points. Those 29 points were all scored in the first three quarters, but they helped keep the Blazers in good position heading into the fourth. If he keeps this up, the Blazers hot start to the season might continue throughout the year.

Play of the night

There’s a reason why the dunk is the most exciting play in basketball. In a game filled with quality plays, a dunk that happened at the 8:47 mark of the second quarter is the one that stands out the most. I mean, how could it not? Just look at Isaiah Roby put the Blazers into the basket. We don’t even remember if he finished the and-one or not (he didn’t).

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