On a current 9 win streak and with a 10-0 record on the road, the Spurs will begin this week against the Orlando Magic for the first time this season in San Antonio. Throughout the week the Silver and Black are looking to extend those streaks against some familiar opponents including the Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks who they've played against just last week.
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 at 08:30 PM ET Home
The Orlando Magic have made fans around the league scratch their heads in wonder. During the offseason, the Magic signed Serge Ibaka to a one-year deal, and alongside Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo was signed as well despite having young prospects in Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic. Along with the signing of Jeff Green and acquisition of former Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel, the Magic have not looked promising. The Orlando Magic have barely edged out against the 76ers, Kings, Wizards, OKC, a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis, and the Dallas Mavericks. The average win percentage of those 6 teams is .277 and the Orlando Magic have won against them by an average of 4.83 points.
Despite considerable struggles throughout the season so far, Orlando may be able to give the Spurs a run for their money in the front court. Over the last few years, Ibaka has been a pivotal factor against San Antonio in the playoffs providing rebounding and scoring, and the cumulative effects of the Orlando big men place them 8th in rebounds while San Antonio sits 28th overall. Both teams are similar on the defensive end sitting 7th and 8th in opponent points per game, but the Spurs will need some significant interior presence as the Magic rank 9th in offensive rebounds. The Spurs are 5th in the league in preventing offensive rebounds so the interior presence is statistically present, but we will have to see how the Spurs big men match up. It is currently unknown if Dewayne Dedmon will be back on the court for this game as he’s battling a knee sprain, but the former Magic player would provide the necessary stopping power on the glass and defensive end. The key to this game is to be able to limit the Magic’s rebounding ability and interior presence, and force them to shoot the three as they are 28th overall shooting 31.8%. Expect a lot of interior help defense as the Spurs will try to force the Magic to kick it out to the perimeter. David Lee may take more minutes as he has been playing exceptionally well, and Pau Gasol may take fewer minutes as the Magic are a very athletic team.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 at 08:30 PM ET Away
San Antonio will travel to Dallas to play against the Mavericks again. Popovich has stated that the 96-91 win last week was a “pathetic performance” against the team with the worst record in the league. With the current state of the Mavericks and only winning by 5, Popovich has every right to be upset and we should expect a Spurs team that will be playing with great desire. Last week’s game went down to a Harrison Barnes isolation which would have made it a one-possession game, but thanks to Danny Green’s defense the shot was off.
The Spurs simply did not care for last week’s game. The Mavericks shoot 41% from the field per game on average (29th in the league), but during last week’s game, they shot 47.3% which would put them second overall behind the Golden State Warriors (50.6%). When the Spurs faced the Warriors opening night, they made them shoot 47.2% and blew them out by 29, yet only managed to escape Dallas by 5. Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker were out against Dallas, but that isn’t a viable excuse for such a close game against an injury-riddled team.
With this week’s matchup, things will look slightly different for the Mavericks as Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams are both coming back from injury for now. Despite the two starters being back, they looked rusty as the Cleveland Cavaliers blew out the Mavericks 128-90 on Friday. Both players will likely face heavy minute restrictions due to their current record of 2-13 as there is no need for either of them to put themselves at risk this early in the season. Despite the fact, both players can cause significant matchup problems against San Antonio as Dirk can space the floor and Williams can be an excellent floor general to the rest of his teammates. Andrew Bogut should be back for the upcoming game as well and should provide some necessary paint protection against the Spurs. Whether or not these players play may be a game-day decision, however.
On the Spurs end, Popovich will be on the sidelines commanding defensive effort throughout the entire game rather than a singular possession in crunch time. If Dirk and Deron are going to play, Popovich will likely play Tony and LMA to combat potential mismatches. Offensively the Spurs were solid in the previous game, but as stated the defense needs to be ramped up. Harrison Barnes managed to drop 20 points shooting 50% from the field against Kawhi Leonard. He also managed to grab 9 rebounds while only averaging 5.7 this season. If that doesn’t paint you a picture of the defensive apathy that was present last game, not much else will. If the Mavericks show up healthy and manage to contribute like Harrison Barnes, the Spurs will receive their first road loss of the season. This is the Spurs game to lose if they do not show up on the defensive end.
Friday, 2 December 2016 at 08:30 PM ET Home
To finish off the week, the Spurs face off against the Wizards in San Antonio. In last week’s 112-100 victory, Jonathon Simmons put on a show by blocking Alec Burkes into oblivion, receiving an alley-oop from Kawhi, and with the cherry on top a mean put-back slam to lead the Spurs to victory. Tony Parker also showed up to play by dropping 20 points shooting 61% from the field, as well as LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard who combined for 43 points. The Wizards bench unit could not keep up throughout the entire game as the bench only scored 18 points in total. A dramatic contrast between starters and bench players for the Wizards, and we will likely see something similar when the Spurs play against them on Friday.
With such a discrepancy for the Washington Wizards, the Spurs have to be able to limit the fire power of the starters. Although John Wall scored 21 points, he only managed to get 5 assists while averaging nearly 9 per game. Despite the limited assist numbers, John Wall and Bradley Beal can be exceptional isolation players as they are one of the most explosive backcourts in the league and it showed as they combined for 46 points on Saturday. The starters for the Wizards played exceptionally well as they shot 57% from the field, but for this week’s game, the Spurs should focus on a few factors.
San Antonio should look to push everyone to the three-point arc as Washington is one of the worse three-point shooting teams in the league (23rd overall shooting 33.5%). The Wizards shot 27.3% from deep on Saturday, and in order to stop the starters from dropping 82 points, the Spurs need to keep John Wall and Bradley Beal away from the interior.
Along with minimizing interior scoring, the Spurs should continue utilizing Aldridge in the post. In the fourth quarter, Aldridge got several mismatches in a row and managed to score on nearly every possession until a double team finally emerged. Popovich will likely continue to run similar plays for Aldridge but will also compensate for the double teams by making the rest of the players on the floor cut to open spots for good looks. Despite Aldridge being a subpar passer, Popovich will find a way for Danny Green or Kawhi to get open shots. Tony Parker may even continue to slash to the basket and drop another 20.
San Antonio should continue playing Simmons more than 20 minutes for this game. His athleticism rivals Wall and Beal and can leave the Wizards bench in the dust. Although his decision making needs some work, as long as he is able to drive towards the basket and make pull-up jumpers, the coaching staff should be pleased.
Lastly, the Spurs should continue shooting the three ball against Washington. Kawhi was the only one who had a down game from deep as he went 1 for 6, but otherwise, the team shot 37% which is solid. If Leonard made his shots it would be closer to 40%, and once shots start falling for him again, the game will look further out of reach for the Washington Starters.
The Washington bench is simply not deep enough to contend right now, and as much as we’d love to see Wall and Beal play 48 minutes, there is not much reason for it this early in the season, especially with their injury history. With those factors in play, and if the Spurs bench continues to be productive, San Antonio should escape with a win at home.