Weekly Preview: Spurs to Face the Mavericks, Wizards, Sixers and Knicks

In the Weekly Preview, we’ll take a look at the upcoming games for the San Antonio Spurs. This week, the Spurs play the Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks.

San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks

Monday, November 18, 7:30 PM CT

No need to sugarcoat it, the San Antonio Spurs are going through their worst losing streak since the 2010-2011 season. At least that year they ended up with the top seed in the West. This year, the Spurs are fighting just to stay in the playoff picture. The Spurs have a tough four-game road trip ahead, and will need to play much better defensively if they want to make progress.

The road trip kicks off with a game against the Dallas Mavericks. Their interstate rivals have won just three of their last six games. They are coming off a 110-102 victory over the depleted Toronto Raptors. Dallas is 3-3 at home, while the Spurs are just 1-4 on the road.

Luka Doncic will be a future MVP candidate (Image via USA Today)

The biggest headache for the Spurs will be none other than rising star Luka Doncic. Doncic has been on a tear this season, leading the Mavs in points (28.5), rebounds (10.7), assists (9.1) and tied for first in steals (1.3). Last year, the Spurs swept the season series versus the Mavs, but this year Dallas appears to be much improved. Doncic is having a career year while Kristaps Porzingis was a prized pickup last season who is finally healthy.

Dejounte Murray’s return from load management will be a boon for the Spurs, as dealing with Doncic will require the best efforts from Murray, Derrick White and others. Porzingis had 20 points and a season-best 15 rebounds against the Raptors so the Spurs big men should be wary of keeping him off the boards.

Both teams are tied for fifth in the league in offensive rebounding. The Spurs have Trey Lyles to thank for that, while the Mavs have been getting a variety of contributions in that category from Dwight Powell and Boban Marjanovic.

Neither team has been good defensively, but both rank in the top eight for offensive efficiency, so expect this game to be a high-scoring affair. DeMar DeRozan fared very well against the Mavericks last season, so hopefully that continues.

San Antonio Spurs at Washington Wizards

Wednesday, November 20, 6:00 PM CT

Last time these teams met it went down to the wire, with the Spurs coming from behind to get a 124-122 victory. The Wizards are coming off a loss to the Orlando Magic and have dropped 5 of their last 7 contests.

Bradley Beal just crossed the 10,000-point threshold and is averaging 30.1 points per game and 6.9 assists — the best numbers of his career. Beal shoots nearly 50% at home, so while he had a poor shooting night in San Antonio, don’t expect that to be the case when the Spurs go to Washington DC. Bryn Forbes did an admirable job on Beal last time, so it will be interesting to see if Gregg Popovich tries that matchup again or if he will opt to mix it up by throwing White and Murray at him.

Bradley Beal is averaging a career-high in points and assists (Image via Fox Sports)

Washington is second in the league in assists while the Spurs are almost dead last in steals. San Antonio will need to do a much better job playing the passing lanes as the Wizards move the ball very well. Murray ranks near the top of the league in deflections so hopefully he can make his presence felt on that end.

While the Wizards and Spurs are amongst the best offensive rebounding teams in the league, the Wizards are a poor defensive rebounding squad, languishing at 25th in the league. The Spurs big men definitely want to limit any second-chance opportunities. Washington’s front court lacks depth but the Spurs must be wary of former teammate Davis Bertans, who can light it up in a hurry. This game should be a good one to see if the Spurs frontcourt can get back on track and make some headway.

San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers

Friday, November 22, 7:00 PM CT

After a sizzling start to the season, the Philadelphia 76ers are reeling a bit, having gone 3-5 during an eight-game stretch. However, they did pick up a win against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers with Tobias Harris scorching them for 27 points on 12-for-14 shooting.

The Sixers have a lot of length in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and offseason acquisition Al Horford, so the Spurs will have their work cut out for them on the offensive end. Joel Embiid is shooting a career-high 38.9% from three-point range while attempting them at the highest rate of his career. The Spurs bigs (most likely Trey Lyles) will have to be sure to close out on him.

Philadelphia is top four in field goal percentage, which may not bode well for a Spurs team that has been struggling defensively this season. What should help San Antonio is that the Sixers do a poor job of taking care of the ball. Expect the Spurs to continue to push the pace and try to score in transition before the Sixers can get their defense set.

Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris shot 12-for-14 in the victory over the Cavs (Image via Twitter)

While the Spurs lead the all-time series 58-37, they have lost their last two meetings in Philadelphia. This game will probably be the toughest game of the road trip. Considering that both teams have been struggling of late, San Antonio will need to have their guard up if they want to buck the trend and get out of Philly with a victory.

San Antonio Spurs at New York Knicks

Saturday, November 23, 6:30 PM CT

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Spurs take on the worst team in the East, the New York Knicks. Their last encounter had the Spurs winning comfortably as Marcus Morris was booed throughout. The Knicks are a putrid 3-10, only ahead of the Golden State Warriors for worst in the league.

As dire as things may look in New York, rookie RJ Barrett is already looking like a star. As far as rookies go, Barrett ranks in the top four in points (15.8), assists (3.8), rebounds (5.8) and steals (1.2). Barrett is becoming more assertive in fourth quarters as he embraces the franchise tag. He has only gotten better since his last meeting with the Spurs so the backcourt will need to keep tabs on him to prevent him from going off.

RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett is doing it all for the New York Knicks (Image via NBA.com)

In their last matchup, Forbes and Murray had fantastic games. They scored 20 points and 18 points, respectively. Look for that to continue as the Knicks defense is one of the worst in the league. Couple that with the fact that the Knicks are also dead last in offensive rating and San Antonio should be able to close out the road trip with a win.

After the road trip, the Spurs have an even tougher home stretch with games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Kawhi Leonard’s return with the Los Angeles Clippers. As tricky as this road trip may be, the Spurs will want to use this stretch to establish some sort of rhythm and work on improving their defense. While San Antonio has been in free fall mode lately, it is still very early in the season. A couple of key road wins should get them in the right mindset to take on the West’s elite when they return home.