- Associated Press - Friday, December 30, 2016

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - In the midst of another dispirited effort, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich decided not to yell at the Spurs - and they responded as he hoped.

Danny Green and Tony Parker each had 18 points and San Antonio overcame another listless first half to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 110-94 on Friday night.

“Sometimes I go crazy, sometimes I decide to just sit and let them figure it out,” Popovich said. “It just depends on how I’m feeling, how I think the game might go, or who’s on the court at the time. Tonight, I wanted them to see what was going on for themselves. They did a good job of it.”

The Spurs won their ninth game after trailing by 10-plus points, falling behind by 13 in the first half against the Trail Blazers.

San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard sat out his second straight game with a stomach virus and Portland point guard Damian Lillard missed his third consecutive game with an injured left ankle.



Even when Leonard has played, the Spurs’ first-half struggles have made things difficult. San Antonio is at a loss to understand why that is.

“I don’t know,” Parker said. “If I knew, I would not do it. No idea.”

Despite the struggles, the Spurs have won four straight and 13 of 15.

San Antonio had another sluggish first half, trailing by double digits for 12 minutes and falling behind by 13 points midway through the second quarter. Portland forced 14 turnovers and shot 51 percent from the field through two quarters.

“We’ve got to do a better job of coming out with more of an edge to the game,” said Spurs center Pau Gasol, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. “Teams know we’ve been having the slow starts and they play with confidence. Then we turn it up and win games, but it’s something we need to keep in mind going forward so that it’s not something that is repetitive or too repetitive.”

C.J. McCollum finished with 29 points for Portland. Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe were the only others in double figures, with Harkless finishing with 12, and Crabbe 11.

The Trail Blazers shot 43 percent in the third quarter after shooting 51 percent in the first half.

Spurs reserve Manu Ginobili’s second 3-pointer with 3:49 remaining in the third quarter gave San Antonio a 69-67 lead, its first since holding an 11-8 edge 3 minutes into the game.

San Antonio had seven 3-pointers in the second half to win their seventh straight at home.

LaMarcus Aldridge was held to eight points on 2-for-3 shooting, but Jonathon Simmons added 19 points for the Spurs. Green had six 3-pointers in scoring a season high.

“Today their strategy obviously was they were not going to let LaMarcus go off,” Parker said. “In the last two games LaMarcus has been scoring a lot and been playing unbelievable. That’s their strategy and other guys stepped up.”

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Lillard missed his third straight game after playing in the team’s first 32. He leads the team in scoring with 27.0 points and in assists at 6.2 per game. … Portland entered Friday allowing 111.5 points per game and 38 percent on 3-pointers, which are both 28th in the league. … F/C Mason Plumlee had his streak of two straight double-doubles stopped. Plumlee had eight points and five rebounds.

Spurs: Green has 33 games with at least five 3-pointers, the most in franchise history. … San Antonio finished 2016 at 66-15, its most successful calendar year in franchise history. … The Spurs are 13-0 when Parker scores in double figures.

STILL HELPING OUT

After shooting 25 for 32 and scoring 60 points in his previous two games, Aldridge was limited to three attempts against Portland.

“They double-teamed him all the time,” Popovich said. “So, you can pretty much take a player out of the game if you do that. So, they decided to do that, and he did a good job getting rid of the ball when he figured it out.”

Aldridge only had one assist, but his passes helped set up San Antonio’s 11 3-pointers.

LEARNING FROM THE MASTER

McCollum said he spent the offseason studying film of Parker’s mid-range jumper after taking a step to his left away from a defender.

The shot helped McCollum shoot 10 for 19 against the Spurs.

UP NEXT

Trail Blazers: At Minnesota on Sunday night.

Spurs: At Atlanta on Sunday night.

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