Weekly Preview: Spurs to Face the Rockets, Nets and Clippers

In the Weekly Preview, we’ll take a look at the upcoming games for the San Antonio Spurs. This week, the Spurs play the Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers.

San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets
Monday, December 16, 7:00 PM CT

Last Meeting: Spurs 135, Rockets 133

The San Antonio Spurs are still looking to find their groove as they had a so-so week going 1-1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns. The Spurs will look to step it up a notch with a tough week ahead of them against three postseason-bound opponents. The week begins in Houston with a Rockets team that will be seeking revenge.

Since controversially losing in double-overtime, the Rockets have gone 4-2 in that span. They are coming off a surprising loss to the Detroit Pistons. While the Rockets gave Russell Westbrook the night off, James Harden barely got any help despite his 39-point performance. PJ Tucker shot just 1-for-8, and the team shot just 40.2% from the floor to go with just 28.9% from downtown.

James Harden leads the league in scoring at 39.3 points per game (Photo via USA Today)

The Rockets play with a high tempo (fourth fastest pace in the NBA) and lead the league in three-point field goals with 16.0 per contest. In the most recent meeting between the two, the Spurs were able to keep up with the Rockets three-point shooting, hitting 13 of their own attempts — compared to the Rockets’ 15. Where the Spurs really had the advantage was by shooting 47.2% from the floor, as they held Houston to a lousy 37.8%.

The Spurs are going to need much more of that playing in Houston. San Antonio will not want to get caught up in a track meet as they would be playing straight into the Rockets’ hands. The Spurs will have LaMarcus Aldridge back this time who should help against Clint Capela. Lonnie Walker IV had his finest showing of the season against the Rockets. After a promising game against the Suns the other day, you’d have to hope he’s nailed himself a spot in the rotation. The Spurs will need to fare a little better than they did last time when defending James Harden, as he went off for 50 points. This is probably the toughest game of the week for the Spurs, especially with it being on the road.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Brooklyn Nets
Thursday, December 19th, 7:30 PM CT

The Brooklyn Nets had their best offseason in franchise history after signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. While Durant is set to miss the season with an achilles injury, Irving has gone on to post the best scoring (28.5 PPG), assists (7.2) and rebounding (5.4) numbers of his career. Unfortunately for Irving, he went down with a shoulder injury back on November 14th against the Denver Nuggets. While Spurs fans may want to breathe a sigh of relief at Irving’s absence, in some cases the Nets actually fare better without him.

Kyrie Irving’s absence may be a blessing in disguise for the Nets (Photo used via USA Today)

Despite Irving’s impressive numbers numbers, the Nets have managed to go 10-5 since his injury. Prior to Irving going down, the Nets were a poor 4-7. It is interesting to note that the Nets look much better on the defensive end since Irving went down. They boast a defensive rating of 108.3 since he went down, and allow 5 points less per game.

Spencer Dinwiddie has blossomed in Irving’s absence. He averages 20.9 points per game along with 6.2 assists. The Nets are a whopping 21.2 points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor. The Spurs will need to guard him closely, as he’s a huge reason for the Nets success when things go well.

The Nets are the third best rebounding team in the NBA at 47.9 per contest. Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl will need to be tough on the glass as Nets center Jarrett Allen leads the team with 10.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He also shoots 67% from the floor, so it will be important to keep a body on him at all times. Controlling the glass will go a long way in helping the Spurs win this game.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Saturday, December 21st, 7:30 PM CT

Last Meeting: Spurs 107, Clippers 97

This game should be another emotional contest when Kawhi Leonard makes his final regular season appearance in San Antonio. The Spurs had one of their best wins of the year last time these teams faced off.

The Spurs will look to make life difficult for Kawhi Leonard (Photo used via Twitter)

The Clippers have had several impressive victories this season. They’ve beaten the Lakers, Raptors, Mavericks and Rockets. Despite boasting a 13-1 home record, the Clippers are just 7-7 on the road. It should come as no surprise that Leonard leads all scorers at 25.8 points per game. Leonard and Paul George account for over 40% of the Clippers points, while boasting the eighth best offensive rating in the league.

The Spurs blew out the Clippers last time these teams met. San Antonio led by as many as 17 as Bryn Forbes and DeMar DeRozan hit huge shots down the stretch. More impressively, the Spurs held Leonard and George to just 10-for-34 shooting. The Spurs will need to be just as locked in defensively this time around as the Clippers would love to get revenge for their humiliation last time in San Antonio.

Facing a perimeter defense that features, Leonard, George and Patrick Beverly is intimidating for any team. However, with the emergence of Walker and improved play of Dejounte Murray, the Spurs may need to get out in transition and push the pace so that the Clippers will be unable to set their defense. The Clippers have the sixth best defensive rating in the league, so the Spurs will need to take smart shots and move the ball well to generate open looks. They did that wonderfully in their last matchup, but expect coach Doc Rivers to make adjustments.

There is no way to sugarcoat it, this week will be a very tough one for the boys in the silver and black. As infuriating as the loss to the Cavs was, the Spurs were able to remain within striking distance of a playoff spot in the West by beating the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were without Devin Booker, and the Spurs really didn’t play well at all, but every win for a struggling team is huge.

While a 1-2 stretch may seem more likely, the Spurs tend to play to the level of their competition. If they can somehow go 2-1 against opponents who currently have a playoff spot, the boost to morale would be huge.