San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Mike WalshCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2012

San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers: Postgame Grades and Analysis

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    The Portland Trail Blazers handed the San Antonio Spurs their second loss in as many nights, taking down the visiting Western Conference juggernauts, 98-90, at the Rose Garden Thursday night.

    Coming off a buzzer-beating loss to Utah the night before, the Spurs were clearly a little off. They surrendered 19 turnovers and got only 50 points from their entire starting five combined. 

    Portland won their second straight and are now 4-2 in December. They used a fairly well-rounded attack to wear down the Spurs, and some clutch shooting late to put them away.

    Damian Lillard was the star, and was joined by LaMarcus Aldridge. Together, both players outplayed their respective counterparts, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan of the Spurs. 

    The win bumps the Trail Blazers to 10-12 on the season. After winning five straight, the Spurs have now lost back-to-back games and fallen to 18-6. 

    Let's hit the classroom and see how everyone graded out in this tight game.

Point Guards

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    Tony Parker, SAS PG: B+

    Tony Parker missed his first opportunity to play against the rookie sensation Damian Lillard back in November, but played an excellent game and led the Spurs in scoring Thursday night. Unfortunately, none of his teammates were able to get anything going offensively, stunting Parker's numbers in the contest.

    The veteran got to the line quite a bit, finishing 7-of-7 from the charity stripe, and tallied 21 points and five assists.

    He scored six straight points late in the fourth quarter to keep the Spurs within striking distance.

     

    Damian Lillard, POR PG: A

    In his first career game against the San Antonio Spurs, Lillard went off, hitting four threes and scoring 20 points to go with six assists. That was against Patrick Mills though, not Tony Parker.

    Parker provided a somewhat different beast for Lillard. This game would give him a chance to really work on his defense while trying to keep up with the blur that is Tony Parker's offensive game. All in all, Lillard did a satisfactory job on Parker.

    On the other end, no one could stop him, and Lillard finished with 29 points on 11-of-22 shooting. He started a tad slow, but seemed to gain confidence through a solid second quarter and continued that through the final whistle. 

    Lillard added seven rebounds and six assists to his totals. 

Shooting Guards

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    Gary Neal, SAS SG: D+

    The leading scorer for the Spurs in their Nov. 10 win over the Trail Blazers, Gary Neal was called into starting duty for the 12th game in Kawhi Leonard's absence Thursday night. 

    He wasn't catching anyone off guard this time around, nor was he playing against Portland's second unit. Instead he had to deal with Nicolas Batum and Sasha Pavlovic, and the duo was able to use size to their advantage and keep Neal uncomfortable all night long. Neal never got into any rhythm offensively and struggled throughout, connecting on just 2-of-10 for six points. He did add six rebounds.

     

    Nicolas Batum, POR SG: B+

    Scoring didn't come easy for Batum. He dropped 33 points on the Spurs in their last outing, but was kept out off the board for the most part in the most recent matchup.

    That was until it was absolutely necessary. With the Spurs encroaching on their lead, up only three, and with just a minute to go, Batum drilled a three to push the lead out to 96-90. On the ensuing Spurs possession, he blocked a Tony Parker layup, and Batum's two free throws to ice the game gave him 11 points on the night.

    Batum has been dealing with some back issues and it has manifested itself in the form of an awful December. After proving to be one of the league's breakout stars in the first month of the season, Batum had dropped like stone in December. He was shooting just 36 percent from the field entering the contest. He did dish out a season-high eight assists, however.

Small Forwards

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    Danny Green, SAS SF: D

    This was one of those tentative background kind of games for Danny Green. In 26 minutes, Green scored just five points and didn't do a whole lot of significant work. 

    He bricked two back-to-back three-point attempts in the closing seconds that would have cut the deficit to a single possession.

     

    Victor Claver, POR SF: D-

    Playing in just his sixth NBA game and earning his second career start, Victor Claver struggled. 

    He had just been recalled from the D-League, and that is definitely where he needs to be for a while longer. Granted just 12 minutes after going 0-of-4 from the field, the only thing keeping him from flunking here was a pair of steals.

    Claver has the potential to be a solid player, but right now he is simply outmatched on the court by NBA-level talent. 

     



Power Forwards

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    Tim Duncan, SAS PF: B

    Tim Duncan put together a strong late-game effort, but overall didn't play his best. He finished with 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked a couple shots as well.

    Duncan needs to do a better job holding down the pain defensively, as Portland came away with 36 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Spurs in the matchup.

     

    LaMarcus Aldridge, POR PF: A

    In the premier matchup of the night, LaMarcus Aldridge won it emphatically. 

    He was a major force in the early going, allowing the Trail Blazers to both hang with the Spurs and start edging away. Aldridge scored six of the first eight points for Portland and they never looked back. He had 10 first-quarter points and finished with 22 on 10-of-16 shooting.

    Aldridge was also able to keep Tim Duncan from having a monster game. He held his counterpart back, resulting in a rare poor shooting night from the Spurs star.

Centers

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    DeJuan Blair, SAS C: C

    It is tough to grade a starter based only on 10 minutes of action, but that is the task with DeJuan Blair's night. 

    The Spurs' starting center lost pretty much all of his minutes to very good Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw games. Blair hit the only shot he made and grabbed three rebounds in his time on the court.

     

    J.J. Hickson, POR C: A-

    While he made some defensive errors and succumbed to the never-ending depth of the Spurs frontcourt, J.J. Hickson had a very good game.

    He posted the night's only double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, with four of those boards coming on the offensive end.

    He had a big fourth quarter and was a major factor in repelling the Spurs' final charge, scoring six of his 12 points in the segment. 

    This was Hickson's fourth straight double-double in the middle of a fine December.


Sixth Men

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    Manu Ginobili, SAS, SG: B

    In vintage Manu Ginobili fashion, he came off the bench to put up stellar all-around numbers. 

    Ginobili finished with 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 30 minutes. Upon entering the game in the first quarter, Ginobili went straight at the rim, getting to the line a few times in the early going. That gave the Spurs a jolt of energy that was a wake-up call to a team that was sleepwalking through the early goings.

    Ginobili scored four points in the final period, which isn't going to be enough in the long run. The Spurs need him to be a higher volume scorer right now, and seven total shots isn't going to cut it a lot of the time. Taking some of that aggression from early on and inserting it into later-game situations will help. 

     

    Sasha Pavlovic, POR, SG: C

    The Portland Bench is questionable right now due to injuries, and it appears Sasha Pavlovic has become the sixth man. 

    The veteran guard-forward saw 33 minutes of action against the Spurs, but didn't have a lot of offensive production to show for it. Pavlovic finished with just six points on 2-of-7 shooting, as his saving grace was four steals.

Bench

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    San Antonio Spurs Bench: A-

    Tiago Splitter had himself quite a first half. He was incredibly active in the early going and was a big part of the Spurs push in the second quarter. Splitter finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.

    In that second quarter, the Spurs bench scored 20 straight points for the team, helping keep pace with Portland. Joining Splitter during that stretch was Boris Diaw and Patrick Mills, who scored seven points a piece. 

     

    Portland Trail Blazers Bench: B-

    Of the shaky Blazers bench, Luke Babbitt is the only player worth mentioning, as he scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including a couple of threes. Babbitt saw 20 minutes of action, while reserve big man Meyers Leonard played for 17. 

    Leonard did grab eight rebounds, but was fairly invisible on the court.