Trail Blazers-Spurs Preview
Although it took him a while to settle in with the San Antonio Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge is showing signs of playing like the force he was in the past for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Now the All-Star forward will try to help the Spurs capture the NBA's second-longest home winning streak to open a season Thursday night against his former team.
After leading the Trail Blazers in scoring in each of the past five seasons, Aldridge made a somewhat surprising move by signing a four-year contract with San Antonio in July.
With a highly successful system already in place, the 10th-year pro seemed to ease into his role with the club before coming on strong in recent weeks. He averaged 15.9 points in November and December, 16.7 in January, 20.5 in February and 24 so far in March.
Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and Aldridge contributed 17 in Tuesday's 108-87 win over the Los Angeles Clippers that pushed San Antonio's home record to 33-0. The Spurs (57-10) can now move past Orlando's start in 1995-96 and also get within four of breaking Chicago's league-record 37-game run that same season on the way its historic 72-10 finish overall.
San Antonio also has 42 straight home games dating to March 2015. Golden State, the only club with a better record than the Spurs, had a record 49-game run entering Wednesday.
The Warriors visit AT&T Center for a prime-time showdown Saturday.
"We want to win at home but it's not make-or-break," Aldridge said. "I think guys are locked in for this weekend (versus Portland and the Warriors on Saturday). It's been good so far."
Aldridge, who insists the Spurs won't look ahead to Golden State, has averaged 25.7 points on 58.6 percent shooting in his last seven home games. He scored 23 in a 113-101 win Nov. 11 in his return to Portland but the Blazers held him to six in San Antonio's 93-80 home victory five days later.
Aldridge will get another shot at the team he helped go 17-8 - including a 6-5 mark on the road - against the Spurs over the previous seven seasons. The Blazers (35-33) own the highest opponent winning percentage overall and at San Antonio over that span.
"It doesn't (feel weird anymore)," Aldridge said of facing his former teammates. "It's been a whole season almost. I'm in (this) system. I'm with (this) group and I'm fine with it."
With Damian Lillard taking over the reigns, Portland has played its way into a tight race with Houston and Dallas for the Western Conference's final playoff spots. The club hopes to avoid its first six-game road skid since dropping seven straight from Jan. 16-Feb. 7, 2015.
The Blazers shot a season-low 34.1 percent from the field while allowing a season-high 59.0 mark in Monday's 128-94 loss at Oklahoma City - their fifth in seven games.
"Our last eight losses have all been to playoff teams (at the time), our last five losses have all been to playoff teams on the road," coach Terry Stotts explained.
Over the past three games, Lillard has slumped by averaging 19.1 points on 39.1 percent shooting and C.J. McCollum has scored 17 per game while shooting 38.8 percent.
San Antonio ranks near the top of the NBA with a 43.2 opponent field-goal percentage and has shot 50.6 percent from the field over its last 23 games at the AT&T Center.