Trail Blazers know Spurs are still dangerous
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PORTLAND, Oregon -- The San Antonio Spurs have made the NBA playoffs 21 straight years, though there are some who believe that streak will end this season.
Don't count Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard among the skeptics.
"They're tough," Lillard said of the Spurs, who come calling to Moda Center Saturday night to face the Trail Blazers. "They're the Spurs. They're going to always be a tough team to deal with. We have to be ready to be locked in and be sharp and get another 'W.' "
Lillard scored 28 points to lead the Blazers to a 128-119 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night to secure their NBA-record 18th straight win in a regular-season home opener.
It was a playoff-type atmosphere, with LeBron James making his debut with the Lakers, a national television audience watching on TNT and commissioner Adam Silver in the house.
The Blazers, who disposed of the Lakers for the 16th consecutive time, know they can't afford a letdown against the Spurs.
"Once the season starts, it's on," Lillard said. "We handled our business against the Lakers. We have to make sure we take care of the home court again Saturday. We know how good the Spurs are, with coach (Gregg Popovich) and LaMarcus Aldridge and now DeMar DeRozan joining them."
DeRozan, who arrived in an offseason trade with Toronto, scored 28 points in his first appearance with San Antonio, leading the Spurs to a 112-108 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday. Aldridge, who spent his first nine NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers, had an off shooting night, making only 7 of 23 shots from the field against the Timberwolves. But he totaled 21 points and 19 rebounds, matching his high as a Spur in the latter category.
"He couldn't make a shot, but he was a horse on the boards and on defense," Popovich said.
"Still trying to get my legs right and find that rhythm, so when it doubt you have to find other things to do -- crash the boards and try to get some easy opportunities," Aldridge said.
"I haven't played with a guy as dynamic as him probably since Chris Bosh my rookie year (with Toronto)," DeRozan said. "To see the things he was doing on an off night -- he was still dominant. It's fun when you are playing with a guy like that."
The Blazers are hoping for more offensive fireworks from guard Nik Stauskas, who lit it up for 24 points in 27 minutes off the bench against the Lakers in his first game with the club. The fourth-year pro, who has had stints in Sacramento, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, matched his career scoring high, hitting 7 of 11 shots from the field, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
"He was in three tough situations (in Sacramento, Philadelphia and Brooklyn), but I thought he would fit well with the way we played," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "I thought it would be a bit of fresh air for him in terms of the style of play and opportunity he would have here. I didn't think he'd have 24 on opening night, but I had confidence he would have a chance to flourish here."
Stauskas had the same kind of feeling.
"This offense is a guard's dream, with the movement we have, with the screens, coming off pin-downs," the 6-foot-6 Canadian said. "For me, it's a dream come true playing in this offense. I've been excited from Day One. I'm getting an opportunity to show it now."
Updated October 19, 2018