Confession time: I write these previews the day before games. It is required because of editing, formatting and getting them out early in the morning the day of the game. Because of that, injuries and Gregg Popovich benching decisions are hard to predict. That is especially true on the second night of a back-to-back like tonight's (tomorrow's for me) game against New Orleans.
As I sit here to write the preview it dawned on me that the context of this article is greatly determined by factors outside of my control. Are the Spurs trying to continue a winning-streak that has stretched throughout the month of March or are the Spurs coming off their first loss in 16 games? Did the Big-3 play at Denver and/or will they play against New Orleans at home? No clue. I'd be lying to you if I typed otherwise.
We can still preview the game, however. It'll just be in a different way. What we do know is that Danny Green is day-to-day and that Matt Bonner is out. I'm going to assume that San Antonio plays it close to the vest and rests Green since he was in a walking boot this week, but all other bets are off. To preview this game as a whole without knowing the participants would be silly, so let's go through some scenarios that could take place.
If the Big-3 rest on the second night of a back-to-back, this game tilts into the favor of a Pelicans team that is dangerous if nothing else. New Orleans is just 31-40 on the season and at least a year away from really putting a scare into the Western Conference, but it has won four games in a row and gone 7-3 over the last 10 games before taking on Utah on Friday. Those four wins haven't come against the cellar-dwellers of the league, either. During the four-game winning-streak, New Orleans knocked off Miami, Brooklyn and the Clippers in consecutive games.
If Popovich decides to rest his veteran stars, which he is very well-known to do on the second night of a back-to-back, it will be difficult to imagine San Antonio keeping pace with a surging roster that is just a piece or two away from being one of the scariest young teams in the NBA. Most of that has to do with the emergence of Anthony Davis. The second-year power forward from Kentucky leads his team with 21.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. He has a staggering 27.1 PER and those numbers don't reflect how well he has been playing over the last month. Davis may be the next best big man in the league and that transition may be happening before our eyes. He is that good and without Duncan, San Antonio will struggle to score points in the paint and keep Davis from owning the area around the rim when the Pelicans are on offense.
If we assume that Green is also out, matching up with the Pelicans backcourt also becomes a problem even with New Orleans suffering through some injuries to its guards. Brian Roberts, Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers didn't play in the win against the Clippers, but Anthony Morrow and Tyreke Evans stepped up to fill that void. The two combined for 37 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in the win.
The Spurs starting lineup can hold its own against New Orleans without Parker, Ginobili or Duncan if it comes to that, but it would significantly hurt the bench. With a full roster the Spurs would have a clear advantage against a bench that boasts players like Darius Miller and Alexis Ajinca. However, if San Antonio is without three normal starters and Ginobili, that advantage dwindles quickly as the normally stout bench becomes thin.
To me, San Antonio can weather not having Parker or Ginobili in the lineup because the backcourt can handle it with Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard playing so well. The issue for the Spurs will be if Duncan doesn't play because of the immense talent of Davis.
Matchup to watch: It is all about stopping, and avoiding, Anthony Davis. If San Antonio can slow him down offensively and keep him from dominating the defensive paint the Spurs are easily the favorite to win this game. If San Antonio rests players, New Orleans could be the team that finally stops the Spurs train. Unless, of course, that train is stopped by Denver after I typed all of this out.
Key Bench Players
The perspective of Pelicans fans can be found here: The Bird Writes
Game Prediction: Spurs by 8.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 14.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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