|-2 POR (-110) @ caesars|
My 9* Situational Stunner is on the Por Blazers at 8:40 ET.
Gregg Popovich's first full season as the Spurs' head coach was in 1997-98 and beginning with that year, he led San Antonio to 22 consecutive postseasons, while winning FIVE championships (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014). That remarkable streak came to an end in last year's pandemic-shortened season and "Pop" and his Spurs could miss for a second straight year here in the 2020-21 season. The Spurs are currently 26-27, which places them 10th in the West. Seeds 8 through 10 are tightly-bunched (separated by only ONE game) but the underachieving Pelicans (dreaded No. 11 seed) are just two games back of San Antonio. Earning a No. 6 seed (which would avoid the Play-In route), seems like a 'bridge too far' (Spurs are 4 1/2-games back) but San Antonio should qualify for the "Play-In" tourney, giving Pop a chance to "coach'em up" and into a 7 or 8 seed.
That current No. 6 seed is 31-23 Portland. The Blazers have been to SEVEN straight postseasons and need to hold off the 30-24 Mavs, for the last guaranteed spot, or fall into the "Play-In" format. Portland won its final four games of March to reach 29-18 but has opened April 2-5. The Trail Blazers have lost four of their last five games and are just 2-8 since the All-Star break against teams that currently have winning records. However, at 26-27, the Spurs are NOT a winning team.
The Spurs missed an excellent opportunity to pick up a win on Wednesday, when they were outplayed by the Raptors, who were missing four key players on the second game of a back-to-back. The Raptors outrebounded San Antonio 54-42 and had 13 fast-break points and 48 points in the paint to the Spurs' 36. This is not "your father's Spurs" but they have SEVEN double digits scorers, led by DeRozan (21.1-4.3-7.2) plus the 7-1 Poeltl (8.0 & 8.0) has done a credible job replacing Aldridge.
The Blazers are back healthy and Lillard (28.7-4.2-7.7) and McCollum (23.2-4.9-4.7) are now joined in the backcourt by Powell (16.7 PPG in 10 games since the trade). Both centers are now healthy, Kanter (12.1 & 11.9) and Nurkic (9.2 & 7.6), plus Anthony (13.3) has been excellent off the bench all season. Portland needs to get back on the winning track in a hurry, as the Mavs are lurking plus with Murray out for the season, catching the Nuggets (Portland trails Denver by just three games) is NOT of the question. The Blazers will surely remember getting CRUSHED 125-104 at home by the Spurs back in Portland on Jan 18.