NBA: Teams at bottom of West clash as Blazers host Spurs
Two teams near the bottom of the Western Conference standings will be trying to dig out of losing stretches when the Portland Trail Blazers host the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
The Trail Blazers have dropped 12 of their past 16 games to fall to 13th place in the 15-team conference.
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San Antonio resides in 14th place after losing nine of its past 11 games.
Portland seemed to have a good chance at a victory on Sunday night when it led the visiting Los Angeles Lakers by 25 points at halftime. But the Trail Blazers were outscored 75-41 in the second half while being saddled with another setback.
“We didn’t sustain the level of focus and energy that we had in the second quarter,” Portland star guard Damian Lillard said of a quarter in which his team outscored the Lakers 45-13. “… They came out and picked up the pressure and their aggressiveness. It was almost as if we were expecting them to lay down.”
Portland has lost the first two contests of a six-game homestand and is just 2-5 during a stretch of favorable scheduling in which 10 of 11 games are at home.
It is frustrating to Lillard, who is expecting the Trail Blazers to be a playoff team this season.
“Nothing is ever an easy fix in the NBA,” Lillard said. “A lot of things have to be lined up, a lot of things have to align, whether that’s chemistry, pieces fitting together, guys caring, how much it matters.
“… Especially how we’re struggling right now, it usually runs a little deeper. You have to find some solutions.”
Lillard had 24 points and 10 assists but was just 5 of 17 from the field. Lillard is just 11 of 38 from the field — including 6 of 26 from 3-point range — over the past two games.
Anfernee Simons made seven 3-pointers while scoring 31 points against the Lakers for his ninth 30-point outing of the season.
Defense has been a problem for the Spurs, who gave up 33 or more points in three different quarters on Friday while falling 131-126 to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers shot a scorching 63 percent from the field and were 15 of 28 from 3-point range.
“Those guys made shots down the stretch,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the Clippers. “At times that’s the difference.”
Keldon Johnson recorded 23 points for San Antonio and has scored 20 or more points in 15 of his last 19 appearances. He is averaging 22 points in eight games this month.
Josh Richardson and Zach Collins each scored 17 points. Collins’ output was his second best of the season and he made 7 of 9 shots.
“It (stinks) to lose though. We’re trying to win games,” Collins said. “We put ourselves in positions to win games most of the time. Obviously, (the Clippers) are a very talented team. They got guys who can score. “We had a chance to win so that’s definitely a positive.”
Collins played three seasons with the Trail Blazers (2017-20) earlier in his career.
Spurs rookie Jeremy Sochan had 16 points against the Clippers for his third straight outing of 15 or more points. He is shooting 60 percent from the field (18 of 30) during the span.
The contest is the first of a three-game road trip for San Antonio, which is just 5-15 away from home this season.
The Trail Blazers are 2-0 against the Spurs this season. Lillard averaged 29.5 points in the two wins.
–Field Level Media
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