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|The San Antonio Spurs face a near-must-win situation when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.
And nothing would make the Trail Blazers happier than to snatch that victory away from the Spurs and rain a little on the parade San Antonio has enjoyed for the past two decades.
The Spurs (45-34) are in desperation mode although they begin play in the sixth playoff spot in the Western Conference with three games to play. San Antonio is tied with New Orleans and Oklahoma City for fifth place in the Western Conference standings Jaylon Smith Jersey , a game behind fourth-place Utah. But only one game separates fifth place from ninth place, with the top eight teams earning spots in the postseason.
San Antonio heads home for its next-to-last home game after two straight, last-second losses in Los Angeles, first to the Clippers Tuesday and then to the Lakers, with the latter a 122-112 setback in overtime the following night.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points for the Spurs in the loss to the Lakers, while Dejounte Murray hit for 23 points and took 10 rebounds, and Pau Gasol had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Rudy Gay added 14 points off the bench for San Antonio.
The loss was San Antonio’s seventh straight on the road and kept the Spurs’ magic number to clinch their 21st consecutive playoff berth at two. Two of San Antonio’s last three games are against teams with winning records, including their season finale at New Orleans on Wednesday.
“Man, we’ve got to know that every game is a playoff, a Game 7 for us,” Murray said. “We’ve got to play for 48 minutes Pierre Desir Jersey , and if the game decides to go to overtime like it did tonight, we’ve got to be ready to play even more.
“We are staying together,” Murray added. “One thing I can say, we are staying together. There is a lot going on. When you lose games, it is easy to lose focus.”
For the first time in 18 years, the Spurs will not win 50 games in a season. And Gasol said that San Antonio’s margin for error is shrinking.
“We have been talking about that,” Gasol said. “It just gets slimmer and slimmer. It was the worst outcome, losing two games that we had our chances and even times, especially (against the Clippers), were in control of with big leads. But two losses, and that is reality.”
Portland (48-31) heads to the Alamo City in third place in the Western Conference standings Johnny Unitas Jersey , a game up on Utah but already assured of a spot in the playoffs. The Trail Blazers lost their most recent game at Houston 96-94 on Thursday despite allowing just 12 points in the fourth quarter and 30 points in the second half.
CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 16 points, and Jusuf Nurkic had his 25th double-double of the season, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the loss. Wade Baldwin IV scored 14 points while Caleb Swanigan had a career-high 10 points and Evan Turner had 10 points for Portland.
“I know we put in all the guys who don’t play a lot, everybody’s hungry,” Baldwin said. “Everybody wants to play in this league, everybody wants to show what they can do. I think everybody did a fantastic job of showing that tonight.”
Portland dropped its second consecutive game and fell to 4-5 since a 13-game winning streak launched them up the Western Conference standings
“Those guys at the end just worked their (butts) off,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Played hard, were aggressive defensively. It was really impressive. Too bad we couldn’t go to overtime or win it, but I was really proud of the way they played.”
Portland’s star guard Damian Lillard has been hampered by an ankle injury but said Friday that he expects to play on Saturday in San Antonio.
The long-awaited contract talks between star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants are going to start relatively soon.After months of waiting to see how Beckham recovered from a broken left ankle and how the 25-year-old mended his ways, Giants co-owner John Mara said Thursday the talks with player and his representatives will take place sooner rather than later.
”I think this was the time that we always had in mind,” Mara said.
”But I think Odell personally is moving in the right direction. He has come in here with a good attitude. Showed up yesterday with a smile on his face. He’s worked hard. I think he’s ready to go. He’s ready for a great season.”
The 25-year-old Beckham is entering the fifth and final season of his rookie contract. He is to earn $8.5 million this season Briean Boddy-Calhoun Jersey , but the three-time Pro Bowler whose career has been tarnished by off-the- field issues, wants to be among the NFL’s highest-paid players, certainly the highest-paid receiver.
Mara refused to say how much the Giants were willing to pay, but noted the franchise wants Beckham to stay for a long time.
Beckham, who was injured in early October and missed the rest of the season, helped himself in the offseason by working hard. He attended about half of the voluntary organized team activities and reported to camp on time Wednesday.
Beckham took part in about 50 percent of the plays in Thursday’s workout and later ran sprints on a back field. He looked good.
Beckham has been the catalyst of the Giants’ offense since being drafted in the first round in 2014. In 47 NFL games, the former LSU product has 313 catches for 4,424 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Fellow receiver Sterling Shepard said Thursday that Beckham seems even more explosive this season.
”He wants to show everyone he still has it,” Shepard said.
In a wide-ranging interview with the media on the first day of practice, Mara said he hopes the league and the players union will be able to agree on a national anthem policy. He said the team would wait to see what happened in meetings which he said will take place soon.
”Hopefully we can find a resolution that everyone is open to,” Mara said.
Mara also said he believes 37-year-old quarterback Eli Manning still had several good years ahead of him.
The co-owner also is excited by the unlimited physical skills of running back Saquon Barkley. He is concerned about the hype being thrust on the second overall pick in the draft.
”I think he is capable of living up to it Kasen Williams Jersey ,” Mara said. ”I think he is mature beyond his years.”
Mara says he still has not recovered from last year’s 3-13 season that led to the firing of coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese in early December.
However, he admits there is a new feeling in the building with the changes made by new coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman.
Gettleman, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in late spring, is doing well and is currently in remission, Mara said.
Gettleman was in the office Wednesday and spoke to the team.
”I don’t think I have ever been around a more upbeat person in my life, particularly going through what he has been going through,” Mara said. ”He is optimistic about his recovery and his ability to work this year.”
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