DeRozan’s season-high 36 help Spurs beat Blazers, 131-118
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A day off was the exhale the San Antonio Spurs needed after two blowout losses.
DeMar DeRozan had a season-high 36 points and San Antonio overcame a big game by Damian Lillard to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 131-118 on Sunday night.
The Spurs held a rare practice Saturday morning following consecutive losses of 39 points and 31 points. The team responded with its highest scoring output in regulation this season.
“Our communication was better,” DeRozan said. “I just told the guys, go out there and play, relax, don’t think too much.”
The Spurs responded by shooting 70 percent on 3-pointers with at least 10 attempts for the first time since 2006, finishing 11 for 15 on 3s.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 points and Rudy Gay had 18 as San Antonio snapped its two-game skid.
Lillard scored 37 points and C.J. McCollum had 24 for Portland.
The Blazers have lost five of six, giving up an average of 123.2 points in those losses.
“We’ve given up a lot of points, but the league’s funny right now,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “San Antonio just came off of games where they’ve given up a lot of points.”
Spurs guard Patty Mills referred to the losses as “embarrassing” and “deflating,” but San Antonio was able to rebound with a needed win as it prepares to embark on a two-game road trip.
“It had to be better than the last two games, right?” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Everybody’s got to participate. Good individual defense matters and good team defense (matters), but there is no team defense without talking or trust. We’re trying to get there with this new group.”
DeRozan scored 26 points in the second half as the Spurs rallied from a seven-point deficit in the third quarter after blowing a 12-point lead in the first half.
Portland opened the second half on a 24-10 run in taking a 79-72 lead. San Antonio aided the spurt by committing four turnovers and missing five of its first six shots.
“We were trying to get L.A. going, get him in a rhythm,” DeRozan said. “As soon as he came out in the third quarter, I seen we were just kind of stagnant. We had a couple of turnovers in a row, I just tried to be more aggressive and put the pressure on them.”
Al-Farouq Aminu tied a season high, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the third quarter. Aminu also finished with nine rebounds.
DeRozan had 18 of San Antonio’s final 20 points to close the third quarter, giving the Spurs a 97-90 lead entering the fourth. He opened the game 3 for 12 but finished 13 of 27 in scoring the most points he has with San Antonio.
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Popovich praised coach Jeff Van Gundy for leading the United States men’s basketball team to a berth in the 2019 World Cup in China with a 78-70 victory over Uruguay on Sunday. Popovich will coach the U.S. squad in the World Cup in August 2019 and in the 2020 Olympics.
“Well, of course I’m happy as heck,” Popovich said. “We’re not in the dance if we don’t qualify. Coach Van Gundy has been brilliant and he’s working for pennies, zero pennies. He wants to do it for the country and he loves coaching. There’s nobody better to put a team together quickly. I think this was the fifth time, I’m not sure, but four or five different teams to get the USA to be able to qualify. He deserves a lot of credit and all those guys that have given up their time to do this. It was a group effort, but he’s the guy that made it go.”
The Spurs noticed Stotts kept whistling when he wanted the Blazers to double team defensively.
“I just noticed it,” Aldridge said. “I think last year and this year whenever he whistles, the double is coming. And I think he does it sometimes to try to trick you into thinking it’s coming. But I thought everyone was ready for it. I thought guys went to the right spaces. I tried to make the right reads and it ended up working out.”
Trail Blazers: Every starter scored in double figures except Maurice Harkless, who finished with eight points on 3-for-5 shooting. ... Aminu also scored 20 points against Denver on Nov. 30. ... Evan Turner sat out with an inflamed left Achilles tendon. Turner had played in every game, averaging 8.2 points in 26 minutes.
Spurs: Aldridge became the 69th player in NBA history with 7,000 field goals, joining Pau Gasol and former Spurs George Gervin, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kevin Willis, Dale Ellis, Terry Cummings, Moses Malone and Dominique Wilkins. ... DeRozan’s previous season high was 34 points, accomplished three times. ... Marco Belinelli missed his first game of the season, sitting out due to neck stiffness. . The Spurs are 85-83 against Portland, making them the only team with a winning record against every other club in the NBA.
Aldridge now ranks in the top 100 in league history in points, rebounds, blocks, field goals and games started.
Trail Blazers: At Dallas on Tuesday night.
Spurs: At Utah on Tuesday night.