The Spurs ruined their chances at an undefeated homestand with their 98-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, a loss that put them back at .500 on the season. With Brett Brown’s 20-11 76ers coming to town tonight, the Spurs will look to get another win streak going before they fly out to Florida for a tip-off with the Orlando Magic later in the week.
San Antonio Spurs (15-15) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (21-11)
December 17, 2018 | 7:30 PM CT
Listen: WOAI | Watch: KENS5
Spurs injuries: Dejounte Murray (knee), Pau Gasol (foot)
76ers Injuries: Markelle Fultz (shoulder), Zhaire Smith (Jones fracture)
A Tale of Two Halves
Saturday’s loss against Chicago will hopefully be the lowest point of a season that has had more than a few of them. San Antonio, who led by as much as 21, was outscored 55-31 in the second half against a Bulls team that appeared to be doing everything in their power the last few weeks to get everyone in their organization fired.
A lot of that came down to how the offense changed over from the first to the second half. As Jesus Gomez pointed out, the first half featured great passing, good movement, and tremendous execution, while the second half regressed to a your-turn-my-turn affair between LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan that resulted in stagnant post-ups and wild drives that looked like they were meant more to draw fouls than to actually score the basketball. Some questionable line-up decisions (going with less Bertans in the 2nd half, having Mills and Forbes in to guard the final Chicago possession) and poor guard play didn’t help them either.
State of the Sixers
Winners of 8 of their last 10, Philadelphia has been on a roll in their last 15 games since acquiring disgruntled wing Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves and are currently 4th in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia comes to San Antonio on a road SEGABABA, having defeated the Cavaliers last night and getting stellar performances from their Big 3, including a triple double from jump shot wary guard Ben Simmons and 19 points from Butler in his return from a groin injury.
How they beat Philly
This game will provide the best measure of where the Spurs are as a team after a long home stand that gave them a chance to inch their way closer to the middle of the pack in the playoff hunt, especially defensively. Philly has a dominant big man, a 6’8 point guard that passes like LeBron (and rebounds like him too), a dynamic wing in Butler that can guard multiple positions on the perimeter and create his own shot, and a diverse roster almost as varied as their Big 3 that can play in a variety of ways.
Philly ranks 9th in 3-pointers made and 12th in attempts, and when they aren’t launching from the outside they have a post-up and roll man monster in Joel Embiid, who is shooting 66% on shots inside 5 feet (on 234 attempts), and 55% on all his drives to the basket. LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl will have their hands full all night with the All Star big man, but that’s not where Philly’s length ends.
In their win over Cleveland, the smallest player in the starting line-up was JJ Redick (6’4”), with everyone else on the court 6’7” or taller. It will be important for San Antonio to run 3-point shooters off the line and force them into mid-range shots, while also using ball and player movement to get good shots against a the tall Sixer defenders. While DeRozan did have some memorable moments against Butler during the season opener when Butler was still on the TWolves, it will be wise if he and LaMarcus avoid ISO play and look for their points like they did in the first half against Chicago, in the flow of the offense.
Defensively, the Spurs need to find the discipline they’ve shown throughout most of this home-stand. I’m curious about what Pop’s starting lineup will be to counter Philly’s length. Playing a small backcourt will provide plenty of mismatches for Simmons, who is doesn’t like to shoot outside of the paint and restricted area. Personally, I’d like to see White-DeRozan-Gay-Bertans-Aldridge start, even if White isn’t the shooter yet that Forbes has shown to be.
Vegas Line: [will update when this become available]
Game Prediction: Spurs by 5
For the Sixer’s fans perspective, visit Liberty Ballers.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.