The San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers will move closer to the end of forgettable campaigns when they square off with nothing but pride on the line on Thursday in the first-ever NBA game at Moody Center in Austin, Texas
The game is the first of two in Austin for the Spurs to end their slate of "home" games for the season. The second, on Saturday afternoon against Minnesota, will have some bearing on the postseason picture as the Timberwolves can still earn a spot in the playoffs
That goal is unobtainable for the Spurs (20-59) and the Trail Blazers (33-46). San Antonio, which is guaranteed to end up with one of the three worst records in the league, has long been eliminated from postseason consideration. Portland's chances ended last week, after the Trail Blazers had already informally shut down star guard Damian Lillard for the season
Both teams have three games remaining.
The Spurs head to their home away from home after a 115-94 loss in Phoenix on Tuesday
San Antonio, playing without injured starters Keldon Johnson (right foot sprain), Zach Collins (cut finger), Devin Vassell (left knee injury management) and Jeremy Sochan (right knee soreness), trailed by 31 points midway through the second quarter but fought back to within nine twice in the third before running out of steam.
"Just trying to be competitive and play our hardest and try to do all of the little things," San Antonio guard Tre Jones said about the team's mindset. "Try to do things the right way and let the rest take care of itself. ... After that first quarter, we played them pretty much even the rest of the way. They came out hot and we came out slow. We were able to get on a few runs there.
"Got it close but just didn't have enough."
Malaki Branham led the Spurs with 21 points while Jones added 20, Keita Bates-Diop and Sandro Mamukelashvili hit for 13 apiece and Julian Champagnie scored 10. San Antonio has dropped nine of its past 11 games
Doug McDermott (ankle), Dominick Barlow (undisclosed) and Devonte' Graham (adductor) all left Tuesday's game with injuries. McDermott and Graham have been ruled out against Portland.
The Trail Blazers travel to Austin after a 119-109 loss in Memphis on Tuesday. Portland was without injured starters Jerami Grant (quadriceps), Jusuf Nurkic (knee) and Anfernee Simons (foot) in addition to Lillard
Skylar Mays, playing his third game with the team after signing a 10-day contract last week, led the Trail Blazers with 24 points. Shaedon Sharpe added 20 points, Jabari Walker scored 16, Shaquille Harrison added 13 and John Butler Jr. had 10 in the loss
Portland trailed by 19 points in the first quarter but came all the way back and and led by five points with nine minutes to play. That's when Memphis took charge for good with a 22-2 run.
"I love the way we played," Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said after the loss. "We're in a hostile territory. This is one of the best teams in the league, and in particular on their home floor. They came out and hit us pretty tough in that first quarter. And we took. Started to get back and do a better job in transition. Closed the gap at halftime. I just thought the rest of the way, we really competed.
The Trail Blazers have dropped six of their last seven games
Sharpe (left knee) is listed as questionable. He has scored 20 or more points in seven of the past eight games.
Portland has won all three of its previous contests against the Spurs this season
--Field Level Media