After hanging up Tim Duncan's jersey following a win over the Pelicans, the Spurs are going on a three-game road trip to face some playoff contenders. On Christmas day they return home to face the Chicago Bulls.
Tuesday, 20 December 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
The Rockets have been the hottest team in the NBA as of late. James Harden looks damn near unstoppable with Ariza, Gordon, Andersen and Capela around him. Eric Gordon has been making just as many threes as Steph Curry so far this season, and the results of his shooting success have been helping lead the Rockets to a 10 game winning streak. The Spurs are of course going to look to end that streak, and it will rely on them being able to play superior defense against a team lead by one of the best offensive coaches Mike D'Antoni. Ideally, San Antonio will need to play some lineups who are able to play the perimeter. So without a doubt, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard will see extended minutes to stop the three-point bomb that the Rockets are throwing down on teams, and I believe that Dewayne Dedmon is going to play a key role in being able to slow down Capela if the Rockets catch fire relatively early (although he has yet to play more than 10 minutes against the Rockets this season). With Patrick Beverley being back in the lineup, it will be a significantly different situation as he'll likely be switching onto Kawhi a significant portion of the game. Although Beverley is undersized at 6'1 compared to Kawhi's 6'7, he is one of the most potent defenders in the league. Don't forget that Tony Allen is a mere 6'4 and is able to defend the likes of Kevin Durant who is 6'11, so we will expect Beverley to create some sort of impact on the Spurs offense.
Los Angeles Clippers
Thursday, 22 December 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Away
The Clippers have been going through some significant ebbs and flows within the past couple of weeks. Losing to the likes of Indiana, Washington, and Brooklyn, one day you feel like they're a contender and the next you feel like they'll just be another second round exit. Chris Paul has been playing out of his mind, as he managed to get a 20 point and 20 assist game under his belt against the Pelicans, and with Blake Griffin getting knee surgery, CP3 is going to be playing at another level while he's sitting on the sidelines. With Blake Griffin being out for the next month or so, the depth at the PF position is pretty lackluster as Brandon Bass and Brice Johnson sit 2nd and 3rd chair to Blake, so there will be a gaping hole in the offensive end in that regard. LaMarcus Aldridge will likely feast in this matchup, but with the way he has been playing lately you can't be too sure of such a performance, although he's been on the upswing recently against the Pelicans. If the Spurs are going to escape with this game, they are going to have to exploit the PF matchup and limit the passing lane for CP3 and his teammates. If Chris Paul is limited to just being a shooter, his contribution to the floor as PG is heavily influenced if he is unable to get his team involves in the plays.
Portland Trail Blazers
Friday, 23 December 2016 at 10:00 PM ET Away
Portland lost to Golden State 145-90. Absolutely no defense involved whatsoever with their squad, and the Spurs will likely exploit their deficiencies the moment they step into the Rose Garden. This game will be where the likes of Pau Gasol will shine as he'll be able to get to the low block with ease, and if Portland double teams, he'll be able to pass it out no problem with his great vision. David Lee is also someone who will be capable of doing the same action against the Blazers, and as long as the Spurs are able to perform that action they should be able to get away with some easy buckets. We may see a few more minutes from Davis Bertans for some enhanced perimeter shooting, and the same goes for former Blazer Patty Mills. With those weapons on the outskirts and likes of Pau or David being excellent passers, a win should be in sight.
Sunday, 25 December 2016 at 05:00 PM ET Home
Christmas Day San Antonio will play against Chicago. The Bulls snapped the Spurs' 13 game road win streak with an interesting strategy run by Fred Hoiberg. He put Kawhi Leonard out of the game as Jimmy Butler would sit motionless on the perimeter and thus would not let Kawhi get involved on defense. Kawhi is that good on the defensive end that teams are fine with playing 4 on 4 basketball, or 5 on 4 if Kawhi manages to fall asleep on the defensive end once in a blue moon. Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson would just go to work against Pau Gasol and Wade would cut to the basket every now and again too. The same strategy will likely be implemented on Christmas Day, and the only possible solution that I currently see is managing Kawhi's minutes so that he is playing against the second unit. That may or may not be a good idea since Jimmy Butler has been playing out of his mind, but that's the most viable solution at this point in time. This should be an interesting Christmas game with the way Kawhi will be utilized on the floor.