PORTLAND — The Trail Blazers and Spurs, despite the fact that they’ve had very different paths as franchises since they played each other in the Western Conference finals in 1999, do share a few things.
Gregg Popovich has a famous love of Oregon Pinot Noir.
However, what was most evident after the Blazers 13th consecutive win on home openers was how much they respect the team they beat 115-105 on Saturday.
LaMarcus Aldridge grew up idolizing Tim Duncan as a youth when he was in Texas. Nicolas Batum frequently talks to Tony Parker on blackberry messenger and won a European championship over the summer.
The winning is the thing that separates them and while Batum got his third career triple double with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, on the final shot of the game from near half court. After the game had been decided, there was no celebration from him.
“I was like, ‘why did I shoot?’ first and ‘why did it go in?’,” Batum said after the game. “It was maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done in my career right now.”
Batum was as apologetic as could be after the loss and wanted to make sure that everyone knew he meant no disrespect. He even added he doesn’t want it to count, making two of the three triple-doubles of his career he’d rather not count as the first one of his career came in a loss against Washington last season.
Aldridge was spectacular for the third game in a row as he scored 24 points on 11 of 17 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds as well. He said that it will never get old going up against one of his idols in Duncan, who also had 24 points and seven rebounds.
“It’ll mean something until the day he walks away from the game,” Aldridge said when asked about whether it still means something playing against Duncan after all of these years.
“I watched so much film on that guy. Watched how he handled double-teams, how he has patience on the block. Tonight, that was big for me,” Aldridge said.
Said Terry Stotts after the game: “I don’t ever want to take LaMarcus for granted.”
Aldridge is averaging 25.7 points through three games.
While the Blazers were in control for most of the game, Marco Belinelli led a late push for the Spurs as he got hot in the fourth, scoring 15 points in the final period including some tough three-pointers.
Robin Lopez had his best game as a Trail Blazer with 12 points and six rebounds and ditto for Mo Williams, scoring 13 off the bench. Wesley Matthews scored 20 points on the night.
The Blazers not only got the win, but they did it against a team that they very clearly respect. While last night’s win in Denver looked like the Blazers had come alive, tonight the Blazers played like they belonged.
Head coach Terry Stotts believes his team is playing with belief in themselves.
“I think we’re gaining confidence,” he said. “ I think the preseason really helped our confidence. I think we believe in what we can do and what we can accomplish when we play the way we need to play.”
After the game, Popovich wanted Batum to know there were no hard feelings.
“Why would I be mad at that? He’s a good kid. I don’t care,” Popovich said.
• LaMarcus Aldridge made four of his first five shots Saturday against the Spurs and helped get the Blazers going offensively. Aldridge scored 14 points in the first half and was also active on the glass, leading the team with seven rebounds.
• Mo Williams got things off to a good start in his Moda Center debut, hitting three of his first four shots and pushing the pace for the second unit.
• Joel Freeland continued committing to the grunt work for the Blazers in the first half, drawing two fouls for his effort on the offensive glass despite the fact he only grabbed one rebound in his first half shift.
• Damian Lillard was quiet offensively until he hit a three-pointer midway through second quarter, which got him on a roll. He didn’t score at all in the first quarter but scored 12 in the second quarter.
• Nicolas Batum struggled from the field but led the team with six assists at halftime. Robin Lopez already eclipsed his previous Blazers high with four points at halftime.
• The Blazers played extremely well and shot 11 of 18 in the second quarter to open up an 11-point lead on the defending Western Conference champions. Lillard found Aldridge for a bucket in the half’s final seconds.
• Tim Duncan was deemed questionable before the night, but coach Gregg Popovich deemed him healthy.
• Head coach Terry Stotts was encouraged by the defensive performance from his team on Friday against Denver, saying his team improved, mainly in transition.
• After a quiet scoring game in Phoenix, Batum wanted to be aggressive from the get-go in Denver and took it upon himself to be aggressive, he said. Stotts said that the Blazers started running plays for him after his hot start.
• When asked whether he thinks Lillard’s shots are coming more in the flow than him having to assert himself, Stotts attributed it to Lillard having a good handle on picking his spots to be aggressive.