In the Weekly Preview, we’ll take a look at the upcoming games for the San Antonio Spurs. This week, the Spurs play the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder and Milwaukee Bucks.
The San Antonio Spurs just had a week of Jekyll and Hyde performances. They clobbered the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies by over 25 points each. Sandwiched between those games was a decent showing against the Dallas Mavericks where the Spurs battled back after falling behind by double-digits but their comeback fell short for a narrow loss. The Spurs have yet to win back-to-back games since December 3rd.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors
Tuesday, December 31, 6:00 PM CT
Last Meeting: Warriors 110, Spurs 127
The Spurs had their first dominant performance of the season against Golden State back in early November. The Warriors have finally returned to the “Real NBA” after their dynasty has appeared to have ended with Kevin Durant’s exit to the Brooklyn Nets, compounded with injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors have spent much of the season as basement dwellers in the NBA standings, however they’ve had a recent surge, winning four of their last five games.
A big reason for that surge is none other than D’Angelo Russell. Acquired in the sign-and-trade with Kevin Durant, Russell has been averaging career highs in points (22.7) and free throw attempts (4.9). Russell suffered a thumb injury earlier in the season, and the Warriors only mustered a 2-7 record in his absence. Since his return, the Warriors managed a season-high four-game win streak before being humbled by the Mavericks, 141-121.
In the first meeting between the two teams, Russell went off for 30 points, however he shot poorly from three-point land going just 3-for-11. It looks like the Spurs won’t have to worry about Russell in this game, though, as he and Willie Cauley-Stein are out due to an illness.
Patty Mills managed a season-high 31 points in the first meeting and while a repeat performance may be doubtful, the Spurs will look to him to provide a spark off the bench. Rudy Gay has turned it around recently and managed a tidy 7-for-9 shooting performance against the Warriors. Golden State has looked better in recent weeks but with the Spurs at home they should be able to win this one comfortably to close out the year.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Thursday, January 2, 7:30 PM CT
Last Meeting: Thunder 112, Spurs 121
After a late summer shake-up that saw Paul George traded to the Clippers and franchise cornerstone Russell Westbrook traded to Houston for Chris Paul, many had predicted the Thunder would be on the outside looking in for the playoff race. OKC had other ideas. The Thunder have had a solid campaign this season coming off a nail-biting victory over the Toronto Raptors. They have won 6 out of their last 7 games and are not a team that should be taken lightly.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a pleasant surprise for the Thunder this season. Joining the team thanks to the Paul George trade, Gilgeous-Alexander has doubled his scoring output from last season to 19.4 points per game. He was instrumental in the victory over the Raptors with 32 points on 12-for-21 shooting.
Paul is a seasoned veteran and, despite being 34 years old, he still manages to have one of the best effective field goal percentages of his career at 53.3%. A deadly shooter, the Spurs will need to alternate between Dejounte Murray and Derrick White to keep Paul in check. He is the head of the snake for the Thunder, so if they can force the ball out of his hands, it would go a long way toward limiting their playmaking opportunities.
The Spurs beat the Thunder in their last meeting, with LaMarcus Aldridge exploding for 39 points. OKC will be looking for revenge, but a win at home here before taking on the league-best Milwaukee Bucks would really help the Spurs gain some confidence before going out on the road.
San Antonio Spurs at Milwaukee Bucks
Saturday, January 4, 7:30 PM CT
After collapsing against the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks have looked like a team on a mission this year. They boast the best record in the league at 29-5. Even more impressive is that they’ve still managed to win games with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo nursing a sore back.
Antetokounmpo is expected to be available against the Spurs, and that obviously isn’t good news for the Spurs. He is averaging career-highs in points (30.5), rebounds (12.9) and free throw attempts (10.3). The biggest addition to his game since last season is his confidence in his outside shooting. Antetokounmpo takes a whopping 5.1 three point attempts per game, converting them at 32.7%. While that percentage isn’t anything to write home about, if he is able to consistently spread the floor, the league will continue to be in a world of hurt.
The Spurs have struggled in Milwaukee in recent years, losing there in back-to-back seasons. However, it should be noted that the games were decided by 6 points or less. Last season, Aldridge and DeRozan went off for a combined 57 points in their final matchup in San Antonio. The All-Star pair will need a similar performance as the Bucks are tops in in the league in pace, rebounds and field goal percentage. This game will probably be the toughest road game of the year for the Spurs if Antetokounmpo is healthy. If the Spurs can close out the week going 2-1, they would be in prime position to hang on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.