The San Antonio Spurs shook off a slow start to improved their record (8-4) by beating the Portland Trail Blazers (7-4) 99-83 on Friday night and stay unbeaten at home.
It was the Spurs’ best start since the 2007-08 season when they started 13-0.
With Tim Duncan and Tony Parker struggling for three quarters, and LaMarcus Aldridge dominating on the inside, the Spurs found themselves in the middle of a scoring drought and things were looking bleak for the Spurs at that point.
However, Tiago Splitter, rookie Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the Spurs bench rose to the challenge to save the Spurs for what appeared to be an impending loss.
Trailing 57-52 with 4:50 left in the third period, Splitter came off the bench to provide an instant spark on both ends of the floor. He scored eight straight points for the Spurs while defending the interior on the other end as San Antonio re-take the lead 59-57 with a little over three minutes in the third.
At the start of the fourth quarter, it was Leonard’s turn to shine offensively.
After DeJuan Blair tied the game at 67, Leonard hit a 3-pointer that gave the Spurs a 70-67 advantage. It sparked a 12-0 San Antonio run that broke the game wide open.
Danny Green and Tony Parker scored on the Spurs’ next two offensive trips and Matt Bonner made a shot from beyond the arc, then Leornard hit another layup off a Blair assist as the Spurs extended their lead 79-67 with 8:42 remaining.
The Spurs never trailed again after that.
Duncan and Splitter did not play the entire fourth quarter, while Parker scored 12 of his 20 points in the final period when he was re-inserted late in the game to provide some finishing touches.
“They did a pretty good job on me the first three quarters,” Parker said. “I was just trying to wait for my time.”
Parker made only 4-of-12 shots and had four turnovers through the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter, he went 4-of-4 from the field, had two steals and didn’t commit a turnover.
“My teammates were playing great, and then in fourth quarter I felt like it was my moment to be aggressive,” Parker said.
Splitter scored 14 points for the Spurs, Blair had 13 points and 11 boards, Green added 13 and Leonard chipped in 11 points and five rebounds.
Aldridge led Portland with 29 points, Raymond Felton had 13, and Wes Matthews and Gerald Wallace each had 12.
The Blazers played most of the game without starting center Marcus Camby, Camby went down with a sprained left ankle with 4:22 to play in the second quarter. After going up for a shot over Blair, Camby immediately went down and grabbed his ankle. Following a timeout, he was helped off the floor and didn’t return.
The Spurs’ bench outscored Portland’s reserves 45-17.
“We did a pretty good job, coming from the bench, all the guys playing hard, hard defense,” Splitter said. “Gary Neal had to play the point guard. We brought the energy and did a good job.”
The Spurs will try to extend their home winning streak to nine, when they face the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at the AT&T Center.