Aldridge, Gasol help Spurs hold off Blazers
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The San Antonio Spurs didn’t have Kawhi Leonard or Tony Parker at their disposal Wednesday night at Moda Center.
However, the Spurs had LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, who carried them to a 93-91 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Aldridge had 22 points and eight rebounds against his former team. Gasol collected 20 points, 17 rebounds and five assists for the Spurs, who won for the their third consecutive game and for the 11th time in 14 outings.
San Antonio (22-10) trailed by six points early in the fourth quarter but hung tough and pulled it out with a determined effort down the stretch.
“I told (the players) if I could bottle their effort at the end of the game, they’d win 82 games,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Somehow, players don’t play like that unless the game’s on the line.”
Damian Lillard scored 17 points for the Trail Blazers, who lost for the fifth straight time at home.
The Blazers (16-15) shot poorly -- 39.6 percent from the field, 24 percent from the 3-point arc and 64.3 percent from the free-throw line -- but still had a chance to win at the end. After Portland inbounded the ball with 2.6 seconds left, CJ McCollum’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim as time expired.
“I thought it was going in,” said McCollum, who missed his first 11 shots from the field and finished 5 of 22 for 13 points. “It felt good coming off my hands. I had (2.6) seconds, so I knew I had two dribbles. I turned, got squared and let it go. Just left it short.”
Leonard and Parker, who have both missed the majority of the season while recovering from quadriceps injuries, sat out the game as part of the club’s health-management program.
The Spurs shot 51.3 percent from the field and outrebounded Portland 53-38 but committed a season-high 22 turnovers that resulted in 26 Blazers points.
“It’s tough to win on the road, especially with 22 turnovers,” Popovich said. “I thought we hung in there pretty good. We didn’t play great, but I was proud of the effort. They just kept pushing. That’s what this group does.”
Aldridge and Gasol each scored 16 points as San Antonio, shooting 58.1 percent from the field, raced to a 54-46 halftime lead. Lillard had 14 for Portland at the break.
San Antonio led 57-48 early in the third quarter, but Portland stormed back to take a 63-61 lead on McCollum’s short jumper -- his first basket of the game. Kyle Anderson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Spurs a 74-72 edge going into the final period.
Portland scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to go ahead 80-74. San Antonio rallied to go on top 84-83 with 6:07 left.
The teams battled back and forth, Patty Mills giving the Spurs a 90-87 lead on a layup with 2:04 left.
McCollum scored on a driving bank shot to make it 90-89 with 1:40 to go. Mills’ jump hook pushed San Antonio’s lead to 92-89 with 27.5 seconds remaining.
McCollum’s rebound basket cut the margin to 92-91 with 18.4 seconds to go.
Aldridge sank 1 of 2 at the line to give the Spurs a 93-91 advantage with 15.4 ticks left. McCollum missed a pair of shots in the closing seconds, and victory was San Antonio‘s.
“I was proud of our defense throughout the game,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “To force 22 turnovers -- that’s uncharacteristic of (the Spurs). We struggled through some difficult shooting and still had a chance to win the game.”
NOTES: Portland G Damian Lillard sustained a contusion to the back of his right knee early in the third quarter. He returned for portions of the fourth quarter but was limping noticeably. “It’s very sore,” Lillard said afterward. “I couldn’t move.” ... San Antonio F Kawhi Leonard and G Tony Parker, recovering from quadriceps injuries, will play the second of back-to-back games Thursday at Utah after sitting out Wednesday. “Depending on how they feel at Utah, they may get limited minutes against Sacramento on Saturday,” coach Gregg Popovich said. ... Popovich, on the play of Spurs F LaMarcus Aldridge this season: “He’s been an All-Star performer. He has carried us consistently at both ends of the court. It seems like every night, he has been at the top of his game at both ends -- running the floor, rebounding, protecting the rim, scoring for us.” ... Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Portland is 19-14 against San Antonio -- 10-5 at home. Last season, the teams split four meetings.