Few teams have played worse basketball than San Antonio this season. Lucky for them, the New York Knicks are one of those teams, and they’re set to host the Spurs at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
The Knicks offense is abysmal, ranking 28th in assists per game (19.9 APG), 29th in points per game (101.9 PPG), 30th in two-point field goal percentage (45.6%). And while you might expect their defense to match their atrocious shooting and ball movement, that hasn’t been the case.
New York comes into this matchup 12th in opponent points per game. Although that may not mirror some of the league’s top defenses, the Knicks aren’t a revolving door on that end.
With that being said, they aren’t exactly world-class stoppers either. New York is among the foul-happiest organizations in the NBA, their three-point defense is subpar, and they have several holes for the Spurs to exploit.
San Antonio already took down the Knicks in a thrilling season opener. Can they replicate those results on the road to finish a perfect 2-0 against New York this season?
San Antonio Spurs (5-10) at New York Knicks (4-11)
November 23, 2019 | 6:30 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Derrick White (Foot - Questionable) Dejounte Murray (Rest - Out)
Knicks Injuries: Elfrid Payton (Hamstring - Out), Reggie Bullock (Back - Out)
Defending the Three-Point Line
The Spurs have been particularly bad at keeping competition off the scoreboard this season. Though they’ve given up the fifth-fewest three-point attempts this season, opponents have taken advantage of their limited opportunities, shooting a ridiculously efficient 38.1% from beyond the arc.
San Antonio has regularly faced issues with defensive switches, closeouts, and communication, resulting in suboptimal results on that end of the floor. The Knicks are top ten in three-point accuracy, and the Spurs would do well to run Marcus Morris and Kevin Knox off the line.
Minimizing Marcus Morris
Marcus Morris finished with 26 points and had his way with the Spurs in their first go-round. He reminded PATFO why they coveted his services so highly this summer and nearly helped New York pull off an opening night upset.
For what it’s worth, the younger Morris twin has been the heart and soul of a feisty Knicks team this season. They haven’t won many games, but they’ve been right in the thick of things more nights than not.
New York is 3-5 when Morris Sr. scores 20 plus points, and just 1-6 when he fails to reach that mark. The gameplan here seems relatively simple. Contain Marcus Morris, and you should win the game.
Handling the Absence of Dejounte Murray
Dejounte Murray has suffered his fair share of poor performances this season, but when he finds his groove, the Spurs surely follow. The team is 1-1 in his absence, and they’ll be tasked to win without him once again when they face the Knicks.
Derrick White filled in quite nicely for Murray last season, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations in the two games sans Dejounte. The third-year combo guard found himself in foul trouble against Portland and Golden State, and never looked confident in firing away.
New York isn’t a very good basketball team at the moment, though that hasn’t stopped lesser squads from knocking off the Spurs. Regardless, San Antonio will need White to show up on both ends of the floor if they hope to take care of business.
Locating LaMarcus Aldridge
As important as Dejounte Murray is to the Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge is equally salient to their success. San Antonio boasts a 4-2 record when the big man scores 20 points and a 1-9 record when he doesn't.
The seven-time All-Star is in the midst of his second-worst scoring season in Silver and Black, and his inconsistency has been a major thorn in their side. Thankfully, the schedule has enough games left to turn things around.
Father Time may have finally sapped LaMarcus of his days as a go-to scorer, or maybe he’s still shaking off some offseason rust. The talented big man recovered from a similarly slow start a year ago, and San Antonio will need him to do so again to end their eight-game skid.
Will We See More Lonnie and DeMarre?
DeMarre Carroll and Lonnie Walker IV have combined for 16 DNPs this season, but they both found the court in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. And while neither player did anything spectacular with their minutes, their skillsets match up with a lot the Spurs’ needs.
Chimezie Metu has logged 8 more games and 5 more minutes in his career than Lonnie Walker IV.— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) November 23, 2019
Of the 60 players selected in the 2018 NBA Draft, just 16 have played fewer minutes than them.
22 undrafted rookies have registered more minutes than Walker and Metu since their debut.
Gregg Popovich has entrusted longtime vets Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills with significant roles off the bench, and it just hasn’t worked up to this point. Despite leading San Antonio in three-point percentage, Patty ranks 432nd in the NBA in Defensive Points Saved. As for Marco, he’s been a dud on both sides of the ball.
Mixing up the rotations wouldn’t be the worst thing for a team on the longest losing streak in the Pop era. With Dejounte out and Derrick’s status in limbo, they might be forced to call on Carroll and Walker to fill some time.
Finishing What They Started
The Spurs have played one of the easiest schedules in the league thus far, so why hasn’t that translated into a winning record? Though there are a handful of answers to this question, their rocky beginning can largely be chalked up to their inability to finish games.
San Antonio went 42-6 when they led by ten-points a season ago. This year, they’re 4-4 when building a double-digit lead, and that’s not a trend they’ll want to continue.
The Knicks may not seem threatening on paper, but neither did the Wizards, Magic or Grizzlies. Our guys are inching dangerously close to a double-digit losing streak, and tonight would be a great time to kick it into high gear.