SAN ANTONIO SPURS (39-15)
at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (36-17)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 10:05 p.m. ET
Line: Portland -2, Total: 211
The slumping Trail Blazers look to get back in the win column without their best player, LaMarcus Aldridge, when they host the well-traveled Spurs on Wednesday night.
San Antonio embarked on its annual rodeo road trip on Feb. 3, and has two more games remaining before returning home. But the team will once again be missing star PG Tony Parker (17.7 PPG, 6.2 APG) who head coach Gregg Popovich said is out "for the foreseeable future" because of wear and tear on his body. With Tuesday's impressive 113-103 win at the Clippers without Parker, the Spurs are now 5-2 SU (4-3 ATS) on the road trip, improving to 21-7 SU (16-12 ATS) away from home this season. Portland's star PF LaMarcus Aldridge (23.9 PPG, 11.4 RPG) will miss at least one week of action because of a strained left groin, which is a tough blow for a team that is just 3-6 SU (4-5 ATS) in its past nine games, including 1-2 SU (0-3 ATS) at home. The club is now 19-6 SU, but only 12-13 ATS, at home this season. However, the Blazers have four straight wins (SU and ATS) in this series, including a 10-point home victory on Nov. 2, and a 109-100 road upset win when they last met on Jan. 17 at AT&T Center. Portland now holds a commanding 13-4 SU (12-5 ATS) advantage in the past 17 meetings with San Antonio, which includes a 9-1 SU mark (8-2 ATS) at Moda Center. Although the Spurs are 9-4 SU (7-6 ATS) with zero rest this season, they are a subpar 15-23 ATS (40%) after an SU win. The Blazers are only 4-8 ATS with at least two days' rest this season, but have done a nice job of avoiding losing skids with an 11-5 SU mark (9-7 ATS) after an SU loss. In addition to Parker being out, the Spurs could be missing SF Kawhi Leonard (hand) and C Tiago Splitter (calf), who are both listed as questionable for Wednesday. In addition to Aldridge's absence, the Blazers continue to be without PF Joel Freeland (knee) for at least another month.
Which team will overcome the loss of its superstar to prevail on Thursday? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five StatFox experts have been sizzling with a 61% ATS record (19-12-1) since Feb. 10, making them 53% ATS (144-129-7) since Dec. 1. StatFox Zach has a stellar 59% ATS mark (31-22-3) on Best Bets since Dec. 1 and is 54% ATS (42-36-3) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has a strong 59% ATS (33-23-1) Best Bets record since Dec. 1 and is 54% ATS (43-37-1) on Best Bets for the season, while StatFox Brian is catching fire, going 74% ATS (14-5-1) since Jan. 25 and 60% ATS (29-19-1) in Best Bets since Dec. 12.
The Spurs don't have a glaring weakness this season. While they are average in rebounding (+0.3 RPG margin, 15th in NBA), they are well above-average in scoring (104.0 PPG, 9th in league), shooting (49.0% FG, 2nd in NBA), three-pointers (league-high 39.4% threes) and assists (24.7 APG, 2nd in NBA). On defense, the team allows just 97.6 PPG (6th in league) on 44.6% FG (8th in NBA), but does give up 36.7% threes (10th-worst in league). With Parker out, PF Tim Duncan (15.6 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.1 BPG) will continue to carry more of the scoring load on Tuesday. He has been having a strong road trip with 20.5 PPG (54% FG), 10.2 RPG and 2.3 BPG in the six games he's played. He has also had a strong series versus the Blazers this season, scoring 18.5 PPG with 7.0 RPG and 1.5 BPG in the two games. In 55 career meetings with Portland, Duncan has 18.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG and 2.2 BPG, and those numbers could rise without LaMarcus Aldridge guarding him. SG Manu Ginobili (12.0 PPG, 4.4 APG) returned to the court on Tuesday after missing eight straight games with a hamstring injury, and played well at times in his 15 minutes with nine points (2-of-5 FG, 5-of-6 FT), three assists and a game-high +19 rating, but he also had three turnovers and committed three fouls. Ginobili has averaged an impressive 20.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 4.0 APG in two games versus the Blazers this season, increasing his career marks to 14.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.6 APG in 33 meetings with them. Replacing Tony Parker on Tuesday was the point guard duo of Patty Mills (9.7 PPG, 43% threes) and Cory Joseph (5.2 PPG). Mills came off the bench to score a team-high 25 points (9-of-15 FG) with five boards and five assists, while Joseph finished with seven points on 3-of-6 FG. The pair also played great defense on Clippers star PG Chris Paul on Tuesday, holding him to 1-of-10 shooting. Two other players that have really stepped up their offense during this recent rash of team injuries are SG Marco Belinelli (11.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG) and PF Boris Diaw (9.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG). Belinelli is shooting a blistering 50% FG this season, including 45% from three-point range, and has shot very well during the rodeo road trip with 15.8 PPG (53% FG, 42% threes) and 4.7 RPG. Belinelli poured in 20 points on 8-of-17 FG (3-of-6 threes) in Tuesday's win in Los Angeles. Diaw has also responded nicely to his added minutes, tallying 13.8 PPG (63% FG), 4.8 RPG and 3.5 APG in 30.0 MPG over his past four contests. SG Danny Green (7.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG) had a couple of big performances during this trip, dropping 22 points on the Wizards and 17 on the Nets, but in his past four games, Green has a paltry 6.5 PPG on 33% FG (5-of-18 threes). He was held scoreless in 17 minutes in his one game versus Portland this season, going 0-for-3 FG with zero rebounds, zero assists and one block.
The Blazers continue to lead the NBA in both scoring (107.9 PPG) and rebounding (46.1 RPG) this season. They are shooting a pedestrian 45.2% FG (13th in league), but are knocking down an impressive 38.1% threes (4th in NBA). They also take great care of the basketball, ranking fourth in the league in assists (23.9 APG) and seventh in the NBA in turnovers (13.3 per game). However, Portland is a poor defensive squad, allowing 103.7 PPG (4th-worst in league) on 45.8% FG (13th-worst in NBA) and 36.5% threes (11th-worst in league). In the past four contests, these defensive numbers have been even worse at 112.0 PPG on 47.9% FG and 38.9% threes. Without Aldridge down low, the Blazers will look to second-year PF Thomas Robinson (4.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG) to fill this big void. But Robinson has not played even 20 minutes in a game this season, and has scored a combined three points in his past six contests. C Robin Lopez (10.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG) will be tasked with providing more offense than he usually does, and Lopez has played well recently with 13.3 PPG (53% FG) and 11.3 RPG in his past four games. But in two meetings with the Spurs this season, he has just 10.0 PPG and a meager 4.5 RPG, which are actually greater than the 7.0 PPG and 4.2 RPG he has averaged in 18 career games against them. All-Star PG Damian Lillard (20.7 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3.6 RPG) has always gotten up for this matchup with 26.0 PPG (49% FG, 42% threes), 8.0 APG and 6.0 RPG in four meetings, and these numbers should improve without Tony Parker guarding him. Lillard has averaged 22.3 PPG (49% FG, 39% threes) and 6.8 APG in his past four games. He is joined in the backcourt by SG Wesley Matthews (16.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG), who has scored in double-figures in five straight games (16.8 PPG), but has made just 34% FG during this stretch. But Matthews has been on the mark versus San Antonio this season with 22.0 PPG on 63% FG and 9-of-13 threes (69%) in the two meetings. The team will also ask for more offense out of SF Nicolas Batum (12.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.4 APG) to help make up for Aldridge's lost points. Batum has done a nice job of scoring this month with 15.1 PPG on 50% FG, but he has nearly as many turnovers (3.9 TOPG) as assists (4.1 APG) during these seven February games.