West powers collide as Blazers visit Spurs
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the NBA's most elite powerhouses battle it out Friday night when the San Antonio Spurs host the Portland Trail Blazers at AT&T Center.
The Spurs head into Friday's contest with the second-best record in the league and the best mark in the Western Conference. Portland is just 1 1/2 games behind the Spurs and both squads are chasing the Indiana Pacers for the best record in basketball.
Both teams head into the contest on highs. San Antonio has won six straight games for the best active winning streak and Portland has emerged victorious in three consecutive outings.
The Spurs streak is slightly more impressive, not just because of the length. Since a disappointing home loss to the New York Knicks on Jan. 2, two of the Spurs wins came on the road and they beat the Clippers, Grizzlies and Mavericks during that stretch.
The Blazers' three consecutive victories all came at home against lesser foes like the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, and none of the wins were by double-figures.
Portland has some tough sledding ahead as the Blazers embark on a four-game road trip with stops in Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma City.
"I don't think it's a test, I think it's an opportunity to prove ourselves," Blazers guard Damian Lillard said of the trip. "It would be a tough trip for any team in the league, so we have a chance to go out there and steal some games so it should be fun."
The Spurs haven't been in a giving mood of late. During this win streak, San Antonio has held opponents to 96 points per game.
On Wednesday, the Spurs weren't great down the stretch, but held on for a 109-105 home victory over the Utah Jazz.
Tony Parker had 25 points and nine assists, while Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Marco Belinelli scored 15 points apiece for the Spurs. Belinelli made four straight free throws down the stretch to help San Antonio remain in front as Utah cut a 14-point Spurs lead to two in the last three minutes.
Parker was instrumental in getting the big lead that San Antonio needed. He scored 12 in the third quarter, where the Spurs built a 12-point lead.
"He pulled us through it again," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said about Parker. "I thought in the third quarter Timmy (Duncan), he and Manu (Ginobili) all played really well and got the lead for us."
LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 18 rebounds to carry the Trail Blazers to a 108-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.
The score was tied 96-96 when Aldridge put the team on his back with a personal 6-0 run. Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard followed with 3- pointers to seal the outcome.
"I was very pleased with our defense, for the most part throughout the game but particularly in the fourth quarter," Portland head coach Terry Stotts said. "We did a nice job of protecting the rim and forcing mid-range shots."
Lillard netted 28 points, Matthews added 15 and Nicolas Batum registered seven points, nine rebounds and six assists in the Blazers' win.
The Blazers won this season's only meeting with San Antonio, a 115-105 triumph, at home, on Nov. 2. That was their third consecutive victory over the Spurs, but Portland is just 4-14 in its last 18 in San Antonio.
01/17 10:20:38 ET