After the Chicago Bulls snapped the Spurs’ flawless road streak, the Spurs finished off last week with a 130-101 win at home against the Brooklyn Nets. This week the Spurs take on the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, and finish with the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016 at 09:30 PM ET Home
The previous matchup between these two teams a couple weeks ago was a sign to see. David Lee with a 15/12 performance, sick shooting by Bertans, clutch rebounds by Aldridge, and a dagger three by Patty Mills who has been on a tear thus far this season. The Celtics were always in the game, but the cumulative efforts of the Spurs edged them away in the TD Garden. This matchup will take place in San Antonio and there are two factors to keep in mind when watching on Wednesday.
The first factor is rebounding. Although both teams sit in the bottom 5 of total rebounds per team, San Antonio outrebounded Boston 45-36. Boston’s rebounding woes were prominent in the previous matchup as Horford lead the team with 10, while 6’2 Avery Bradley was behind him with 8 rebounds of his own. Unless your name is Russell Westbrook, a guard should not be one of the leading rebounders on your team. San Antonio can easily counter this by putting someone such as Jonathon Simmons for extended periods on Bradley to get some extra possessions that can throw the game in San Antonio’s favor. Although Aldridge did a great job on Horford, Dedmon could limit him further on the glass if things get out of hand at the AT&T Center.
The second factor is three-point shooting. The Silver and Black lit it up from the arc shooting nearly 46% as a team last game. Yes, the Spurs shoot 40% on average beyond the arc, but if they shot 40% in the Garden it would have been a 3 point game and the outcome could have been drastically different. The Spurs will need to limit Crowder, Bradley, and Thomas from deep if they want to escape with a win. Davis Bertans and Danny Green were the unsung perimeter heroes in the Garden, and now that Boston knows who Bertans is, it’ll be a lot harder to get solid looks for him. We can still expect the Spurs to shoot well from beyond the arc but do not expect a 46% shooting performance. If the three is unfavorable, we can expect Gasol and Aldridge to take advantage of Horford and Johnson in the post to compensate.
If the three is falling and the boards are being crashed by anyone taller than 6’2, the Spurs should expect another home victory on Wednesday.
Thursday, 15 December 2016 at 09:00 PM ET Away
The Phoenix Suns have been surprisingly underwhelming. With Eric Bledsoe being healthy, Devin Booker being the next model SG, Brandon Knight coming off the bench and TJ Warren having a career year you’d expect some sort of success. Instead, they’re sitting at the bottom of the west with the
Pelicans and Kings. The Suns have the second greatest pace with 101.5 possessions per game, yet are 23rd overall on the offensive end and are 25th overall on defense. Such rankings are eerily similar to the Brooklyn Nets who are first in pace at 101.6 possessions per game rank 22nd on offense, 29th on defense. Brooklyn also shoots 43.6% from the field, while Phoenix shoots 44%. Phoenix is the west’s version of the Brooklyn Nets so far this year, and if we see a 130-101 blowout in Arizona I will start a petition to rename the Talking Stick Resort Arena to the Barkley’s Center to mirror the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
During this matchup, we can expect to see Dejounte Murray play some extended minutes. Although he is still relatively raw to the NBA, the experience against a fast-paced team such as Phoenix will allow him to adapt better to the NBA over time and he has the necessary tools to keep up. Bertans will likely have a greater role this game as well Popovich seems to be invested in his development and contribution to the team through his three-point shot. The key to not letting this game get into Phoenix’s hand is to keep them away from the glass. They are 6th in the league grabbing nearly 46 boards a game, and the San Antonio bigs will need to keep Chandler and Len at bay in order to reduce possessions for the team with the second-fastest pace in the league.
New Orleans Pelicans
Sunday, 18 December 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home
Lastly, we have the second meeting of the Pelicans. In the last meeting the Spurs won 98-79 thanks to several assisted baskets, and great rebounding as well. The Spurs managed to keep Anthony Davis at bay as he scored 18 points that night before garbage time ensued, although one can expect this matchup to be different as Jrue Holiday is there to assist Davis in leading New Orleans to victory. After defeating the Suns on Sunday the Pelicans sit with a record of 6-6 with Holiday on the court, while prior to that the Pelicans were 2-12. Jrue has a clear impact on this team and this is not going to be the same team the Spurs faced in October.
In order for the Spurs to emerge victorious against this healthier Pelicans team, the Silver and Black will need to be able to counter the Holiday and Davis pick and roll. Both players are able to space the floor, attack the basket, and are capable passers as well. In order to minimize their effectiveness, Popovich will likely have to play Dedmon more minutes than normal to counter Davis’ athletic ability and perimeter threat. In order to counter Holiday, a strong paint presence found in Dedmon will suffice as Holiday makes 50% of his buckets inside the paint and Dedmon will likely create a significant impact on his numbers. As long as San Antonio is able to minimize the effectiveness of Jrue Holiday, Davis’ ability on the floor will also diminish if the point guard is shut down as well. In order to finalize a win against this team, great perimeter shooting will need to be seen from the Spurs. With Danny Green back in the lineup, there will be another threat for the Pelicans to be concerned with, and it’ll be interesting to see them handle his abilities as the Spurs shot 42% last game and Green will only add to the barrage.