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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
June 7, 2023

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Blazers win, but catch bad break

Lopez breaks his hand in Portland's victory over Spurs

By , Columbian Trail Blazers Writer

PORTLAND — The Trail Blazers scored another win against a Western Conference contender, even though the win came with a caveat and a cost.

Behind 21 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and six assists from Damian Lillard, the Blazers defeated a short-handed San Antonio Spurs squad 108-95 Monday at the Moda Center.

But starting center Robin Lopez left the game in the third quarter with a right hand injury and did not return. Terry Stotts said he would be out “a while” with a fractured hand.

“I haven’t seen the play,” said Lopez, with a cast covering his right hand. “I think it’s a couple of fractures.”

Lopez said he thought he jammed his finger before determining he was a liability on the court and asked out of the game. While he thinks there could be multiple fractures, he will be re-evaluated Tuesday.

“I don’t like it,” said LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds.

“With him out tonight and going forward, other people, whether it’s Thomas (Robinson) or Joel (Freeland) or Meyers (Leonard) or Dorell (Wright), we have to pick up the slack while he’s gone,” Stotts said.

Wesley Matthews added: “Our paint is definitely going to have to get tighter. We are going to have to sure up our defense on-ball because we won’t have the rim protector like RoLo.”

Stotts said he has not decided about who will replace Lopez in the starting line-up.

The Spurs were without three of their five regular starters in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter. They were also without sixth man Manu Ginobili.

San Antonio were without two of their best rim-protecting threats in Splitter and Duncan, a weakness Lillard exploited. Lillard was aggressive attacking the basket, taking nine of his 18 shots inside the restricted area, according to NBA.com.

“I thought on numerous times his penetration to the basket was very aggressive,” Stotts said of Lillard’s approach. “The line-up they had, they are good position defenders but they didn’t necessarily have the shot blockers. I think he took advantage of that.”

Aldridge was honored prior to the game by owner Paul Allen and the Blazers for passing Terry Porter on the franchise scoring list. He did most of his work in the third quarter where he scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

As a sign of things to come, the Blazers went deeper into their bench Monday.

Will Barton, who has sat in the previous eight games, got a rare call off the Blazers bench in the first half.

Robinson, a seldom-used forward, got playing time in the fourth quarter Monday after playing only briefly in one of the Blazers last 11 games. Robinson closed the game alongside Aldridge in the front court.

Robinson finished with seven points and three rebounds in just nine minutes.

Both teams opened the game with poor shooting and abnormal amounts of turnovers from both teams. They combined for 18 turnovers in the first half. Both teams cleaned things up in the second half with just eight turnovers.

As the Spurs have proven, their system allows players to step into their roles almost seamlessly against anybody. And while they didn’t play their prettiest game, the Spurs did what they needed to do to put themselves in position to win.

Kawhi Leonard finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Rookie Kyle Anderson also kept things interesting with 15 points off the bench.

But the Spurs couldn’t get stops with consistency in the fourth quarter and the Blazers put them away with some timely shots including a big 3-pointer from an ice-cold Nicolas Batum.

While the Blazers were bit hard by the injury bug, there is a glimmer of good news on that front.

After another round of X-rays Monday night, injured guard CJ McCollum has been cleared by doctors to return to full-contact practices “ASAP,” according to a source.

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer