TRIALBLAZERS BEAT SPURS, LOSE LOPEZ
By: Takudzwa Makoni
Damian Lillard put up 23 points, and a career-high 10 rebounds, and LaMarcus Aldridge added a 23 point, 14 rebound double-double as the Portland Trail Blazers out-gunned the San Antonio Spurs 108-95.
Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and nine boards for the Spurs, who, with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli injured, dressed only 10 players, as Gregg Popovich rested Tim Duncan with one eye already on the post-season. While any victory against the Spurs is welcome, this one came at a price, as Portland’s starting centre and rim protector, Robin Lopez, left the game with a broken hand in the third quarter. While free-agent signing Chris Kaman was brought in for just such an eventuality, Lopez’s physicality will be missed. Blazer’s fans will desperately hope he is ready for the playoffs, as his presence allows Aldridge to work further from the basket, without compromising Portland’s rim security. He is out indefinitely.
Portland’s young team have, in the eyes of most analysts, the pieces to make some noise in this year’s post-season. Perimeter scoring from Lillard and Matthews, who was unconscious from deep in the first quarter, as well as Aldridge’s inside presence and the addition of solid, reliable role players, mean that Portland’s main focus should be getting their crew fully healthy come playoffs, as this year’s post-season promises to be the most wide-open in a long while.