A battle of likely fringe Western Conference playoff teams do battle in Portland today as the 1-0 Trail Blazers host the 1-0 San Antonio Spurs (10 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN).
Both the Trail Blazers and Spurs had solid home wins in their openers. Portland outlasted the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers 128-119. The Spurs edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-108 with some crunch-time heroics from new All-Star DeMar DeRozan.
These squads are likely headed for a very similar win total this season. Which team will come out on top today? Let’s break down the matchup and then decide which side of the betting lines, and with which of the legal oddsmakers for American players, you should bet on. This preview will culminate with those picks and San Antonio Spurs vs Portland Trail Blazers predictions.
Will Nik Stauskas Be Major Factor For Blazers?
Stauskas was an afterthought for most pundits heading into this season. The Trail Blazers guard signed in Portland this offseason on a one-year deal worth just $1.6 million.
So far in his career, Stauskas has been a bust in every way. He was the eighth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in 2014 and is now on his fourth team in five seasons. His career-high scoring average is 9.5, which is not good for a guy who is supposedly a shooting specialist.
But Stauskas was amazing in the Blazers’ opener against the Lakers on Thursday. He had 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting (5-of-8 from three-point range) in 27 minutes, proving to be the team’s X-factor. For once, Stauskas’ team is making a point of featuring him when he’s on the floor by running him off screens and getting him the ball when he’s open.
Is Stauskas going to become a legitimate contributor for the Blazers, or was the season opener a fluke?
Which Team Can Do Better On Offensive Glass?
These are two rosters that have good personnel to crash the offensive boards. The Blazers have hulking center Jusuf Nurkic in the paint, as well as athletic forwards like Zach Collins, Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless. The Spurs have an elite quartet of glass-eaters on offense: LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Jakob Poeltl and Rudy Gay.
Both teams had strong showings in the rebounding department in their openers. The Blazers grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and beat the Lakers 54-46 on the boards overall. The Spurs had 19 offensive boards and beat the Timberwolves 52-46 on the glass. San Antonio’s performance may have been a bit more impressive, since Minnesota is better at rebounding than Los Angeles.
Both squads will attempt to stay around the rim to pound the offensive glass without completely being taken advantage of in transition defense. Which team will find that perfect balance between the two?
Can Spurs’ Guards Defend Better Without Fouling?
The five main Spurs perimeter defenders (Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli and Rudy Gay) combined to foul 14 times against the Timberwolves. This is not a good group of defenders, and they showed it by frequently grabbing and holding their opponents.
In particular, Wolves guard Jeff Teague took advantage with a big performance (27 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 9-of-9 from the free-throw line). The Blazers’ Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are even more dangerous than Teague and could be in line for big scoring nights.
The Spurs’ guards will have trouble defending Lillard and McCollum regardless. If they can keep the fouls down a bit, they can prevent the Blazers’ backcourt duo from finding their rhythm at the free-throw line.
Our Preview’s San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
This looks like a bad matchup for the Spurs. Lillard and McCollum should have their way with the Spurs’ guards and Jusuf Nurkic is physical enough underneath to keep the Spurs’ bigs from dominating.
The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich is the better coach here, but Terry Stotts is no slouch and the Portland home crowd is a very good one. Additionally, San Antonio had more roster turnover in the offseason and will be needing to make more early-season adjustments.
So we come to those promised Spurs vs Trail Blazers predictions and this preview’s picks:
- A Blazers win between five and 10 points seems pretty likely to me. As such, your best odds of Trail Blazers -4pts @ -115 are available with Bookmaker. The other bookies are -4.5pts.
- This year’s Spurs are not the Spurs of the past 20 years. They are vulnerable defensively, and while they will slow down the pace on offense, Portland will be sure to speed it up on the other end in front of a raucous home crowd. The over 213pts total points to be scored @ -110 with Bovada, Bookmaker or Intertops looks a good bet here.