In the Weekly Preview, we’ll take a look at the upcoming games for the San Antonio Spurs. This week, the Spurs play the Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings
San Antonio Spurs at Detroit Pistons
Sunday, December 1st, 4:00 PM CT
After a pair of hiccups against the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, the San Antonio Spurs bounced back with a resounding win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The victory was the most impressive of the season, as San Antonio played great defense and got solid contributions from a variety of players.
With momentum in tow, the Spurs travel to the motor city to take on the Detroit Pistons. The Spurs and Pistons have been nearly mirror images of each other this season. Both teams are solid on offense but struggle greatly on the defensive end. San Antonio is just 7-13, while Detroit is 6-13. In their last ten games, both teams are just 2-8. The Spurs will be without LaMarcus Aldridge due to soreness of the right thigh.
Detroit is coming off back-to-back tough losses to the Charlotte Hornets by a combined deficit of four points. In their most recent outing, they had a five-point lead with four minutes to play before everything fell apart. The Pistons struggle mightily in fourth quarter scoring, as they are ranked 23rd in the league at 25.8 points. Like San Antonio, the Pistons’ offense sputters even worse in the final five minutes of the game.
Derrick Rose has been one of the Pistons best players this season. He’s 23rd in the league with a PER of 22.22. Rose is shooting at a career-best clip in field goal percentage (50.3%) and three-point percentage (38.7%). He also ranks in the top 25 in the NBA in assists per game at 5.3. The Spurs will have to keep Rose off the free throw line, as he went 11-for-11 last season in his most recent effort against the Spurs.
Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will be a handful as well. Griffin is leading the team with 19.7 points per game, although it should be noted that he’s shooting a career worst 42.9% from the floor. Drummond, on the other hand, leads the team in rebounds (17.1), steals (1.5) and blocks (1.7). The Spurs will have to be wary when attacking the paint with him around. As with Rose, the Spurs will also need to keep Drummond off the free throw line. On average, Drummond gets to the line 11.7 times per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter. In games where the Pistons lost, he only got to the line 5.3 times per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets
Tuesday, December 3rd, 7:30 PM CT
In what will be the game of the week, the Spurs take on the Rockets in San Antonio. The Rockets are 5-4 on the road, while the Spurs are just 5-6 at home. Beating Houston will be a tall order as the Rockets make more three-pointers than any other team in the NBA at 15.2 per game.
Russell Westbrook was a celebrated acquisition for the Rockets in a deal that sent Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, while Westbrook and James Harden have been mostly fine on the court together, Westbrook really struggles when Harden isn’t on the court. The Rockets have an offensive rating of 109.4 when Westbrook and Harden are paired together. Once Harden sits, that offensive rating dips to 102.3. What’s even more surprising is that the Rockets defensive rating goes from 102.3 with Harden and Westbrook on the court and then plummets to 117.2 when only Westbrook plays. Westbrook shooting nearly a career-worst 22.5% from downtown isn’t helping either.
The Spurs will need to be sharp with their transition defense. The Rockets like to play with the second fastest pace in the league (104.9), and the Spurs certainly don’t want to get caught up in a track meet. Houston is also one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league. The Spurs will hope to have Aldridge back to help clean up the glass.
In their preseason matchup the Spurs went small and threw a variety of different looks at Harden. Derrick White will need to duplicate his fine performance against the Clippers for the Spurs to have a chance at the upset against Houston.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Sacramento Kings
Friday, December 6th, 7:30 PM CT
The Spurs take on the Sacramento Kings on Friday, who are 9th in the Western Conference. The Kings are 8-10 on the season, and 3-7 on the road. The Kings had a furious rally against the Denver Nuggets where they won in overtime 100-97 after trailing by as much as seventeen points. The Spurs will be the second game of a four-game road trip for the Kings.
While Buddy Hield gets most of the buzz as the team’s leading scorer (20.5 points per game), Richaun Holmes has been having the best year of his career since joining the Kings this summer. He is averaging a career-high in points at 10.9 per game, and leads the team in rebounds (8.1) and blocked shots (1.5). Holmes is also shooting an impressive 64.8% from the floor. Aldridge will mostly likely be matched up with him and would need to get physical as Holmes can be quite tenacious around the rim.
The Kings play with the slowest pace in the league (97.9) and are also one of the worst rebounding teams. The Spurs will need to be wary of the Kings at the three-point line, as they average about 12.6 made threes per game. White will most likely be matched up against Hield. He’ll have to be focused as it was only a week ago that Hield went off for 41 points against the Celtics.
The Spurs just had their biggest win of the season against the Clippers but another sub-.500 week would ruin any momentum they might have had. If San Antonio can go at least 2-1, they should hopefully continue to make up ground in the Western Conference playoff race. The Spurs have five days off after playing the Kings, which should give them plenty of time to work out any kinks the season has presented.
While the Clippers win looks like a huge step in the right direction, a bad week could result in additional murmurs of a hard reset for the franchise.