Blazers week ahead 3/4

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

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Game of the Week

Friday: Blazers at Spurs, 5:30 p.m. at AT&T Center (CSN)

Key matchup: Are you ready for the much-anticipated Lillard vs. Mills, Part 2? Hope so, because Damian Lillard will see a lot of former Blazer Patty Mills, as well as Gary Neal, during this game. Spurs All-Star point guard Tony Parker is out for the next four weeks with a Grade 2 left ankle sprain. Parker also missed the first matchup with the Blazers on Nov. 10 and on that night, Lillard shook a defenseless Mills like a bad habit. Neal, who came off the bench, was a bit better defensively but Lillard still made 8 of 16, including half of his 3-point attempts and finished with 20 points in only his sixth game as a pro.

Key stat: The Blazers felt they should've won that Nov. 10 game but a fourth-quarter defensive collapse led to the Spurs sneaking away, 112-109. The 39 points allowed in the fourth quarter rank as the second highest for a Blazer opponent this season.

To win: The Spurs still routed Sacramento the night Parker suffered his injury and on Sunday, they steamrolled Detroit. So, although the Spurs have lost their floor leader, there has been no visible slippage — it also helps that the Kings and Pistons are two of the worst teams in the league. Without Parker, others will look to make plays. So the Blazers will need to lock in on the always-active Manu Ginobli, who had 15 assists against Sacramento.

Remember, San Antonio still won in Portland during the first meeting without Parker, therefore the Blazers should brace for the depth of the Spurs.

By the Numbers

0 — The amount of wins the Blazers have on players' birthdays this season. Last Wednesday, Meyers Leonard celebrated his 21st but the Blazers lost to Denver. On Nov. 25, the Blazers dropped a game to the Brooklyn Nets when Jared Jeffries turned 31. Will Barton, Nicolas Batum, Joel Freeland and Sasha Pavlovic have all celebrated birthdays this season but theirs fell on off days.

21 — The current streak of consecutive games that J.J. Hickson has shot 50 percent or better from the floor.

55 — The number of rebounds the Blazers grabbed against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night, a new season best. Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic — also known as the Timberwolves' starting front court — did not play, allowing the Blazers to dominate the glass.

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