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Trail Blazers v. Spurs Preview: San Antonio Gets Infusion Of Youth

01/13/12
  1. Written by: KevinHudson

    While the Spurs will rely heavily on Tim Duncan and Tony Parker as they always have when they face the Trail Blazers Friday night (5:30 p.m., ComcastSportsNet, 750 AM The Game), it is the fresh face of rookie Kawhi Leonard that is helping to ease a bit of the sting from losing Manu Ginobli to a wrist injury for two months.

    Leonard has played in 10 games this season and has looked every bit the capable x-factor in his last three for San Antonio. The 6-foot-7 forward out of San Diego State has scored in double figures in his last three games, including a 13-point, 10-rebound performance against Oklahoma City and 11 points, eight rebounds in San Antonio's 101-95 overtime win against Houston Wednesday.

    "I’m getting more comfortable on the court. Just knowing the offense more and my teammates are helping me out each and every game," Leonard said. "I’m feeling more comfortable, basically."

    But if Portland forward Gerald Wallace hopes to turn around his road woes of the first few contests, he and other Trail Blazers guards and small forwards will find a challenge against the rookie, because his defense is what has Spurs coach Gregg Popovich excited about the possibilities, even comparing Leonard to stopper Bruce Bowen.

    "This young man has a lot to learn, but as I’ve said a lot of times, he’s very willing, he’s very versatile and I think he’s got the ability to be one heck of a player and he wants to be," Popovich said. "We’re excited about him."

    Portland (7-3) is 1-2 on the road while the Southwest division-leading Spurs (7-4) are 7-0 at home after sneaking the overtime victory against Houston Wednesday while the Trail Blazers' late snatch-and-grab attempt against the Magic came up short, tarnishing Portland's home record.   

    Tony Parker tallied a pair of game-highs with 28 points and eight assists in the Spurs win but the night belonged to Tim Duncan, who passed Larry Bird for 27th on the NBA's all-time scoring list while notching the game's lone double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

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