Just when it looked like the Spurs were ready to turn their season around, the bottom-feeding Cleveland Cavaliers came to town and stole a game in overtime. Unfortunately for San Antonio, that was the final contest of a three-game homestand, and they must now take the show on the road, a place where they’ve struggled mightily.
With that being said, there are a few silver linings in their upcoming matchup with the Suns. Phoenix is 4-6 in their last 10 games, star center Deandre Ayton remains sidelined due to suspension, and the festivities will take place at a neutral site in Mexico City rather than Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Here’s where things get tricky regardless of setting. The Suns are home to the fifth-best scoring offense (115.4 PPG), and the Spurs lay claim to the sixth-worst scoring defense (115.5 PPG) in the NBA. If San Antonio hopes to win abroad, they’re gonna have to come up with stops in addition to putting points on the board.
That’s not to say scoring won’t be a huge factor in this one, because, in all likelihood, we’re in for a shootout between two of the worst defenses and two of the better offenses in the league. So, what should you watch for in this mid-afternoon meeting?
San Antonio Spurs (9-15) at Phoenix Suns (11-13)
December 14, 2019 | 4:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Suns Injuries: Devin Booker (Arm - Day-to-day), Deandre Ayton (Suspension - Out)
Transition and Fastbreak Defense
The Suns are one of the best teams when it comes to fastbreak and transition offense, and when you have a roster full of young explosive athletes, that tends to be the case. Phoenix ranks second in points off turnovers, fifth in transition points, and tenth in fastbreak points.
San Antonio has been awful on the defensive end when opposing teams push the pace, and it’s led to several miscommunications and wide-open layups. Pop has been reluctant to play his young guards together, but this would be the perfect time to see how a Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Lonnie Walker IV tandem handle a potent backcourt.
Containing Devin Booker
Devin Booker has quietly put together quite an impressive season thus far. The sweet-shooting two-guard is on pace to record just the 13th 50-40-90 season in NBA history and doing so while averaging 25 points per game on 17.5 shots each night.
Holding Book in check won’t be easy, but it’s a must-do to slow the rest of the Suns. Stopping Ricky Rubio will be important too, but pestering the main attraction should disrupt the Spaniard’s ability to facilitate the offense.
Getting Dejounte Involved
Murray has been inconsistent this season, and that’s to be expected from a player returning from a devasting ACL injury. When he plays well, the Spurs usually find a way to win. When he doesn’t, a loss is almost inevitable.
The one consistent factor in his performance appears to be rhythm. Which makes perfect sense considering the game of basketball is heavily dependent on confidence and cadence.
San Antonio is 7-6 when Dejounte shoots the ball at least 8 times, and 0-8 when he fails to reach that mark. I’m not saying coach Pop should tell Murray fire at will, but it might be a good idea to get him going from time to time.
Playing Four Quarters of Adequate Basketball
All of these overtime periods have been exciting and whatnot, but let’s be honest, the Silver and Black wouldn’t have to play extra basketball if they just did their job in the first go-round.
Recently, it feels as though the good guys have mailed it in for three quarters and come alive in the final frame. Though fans would ordinarily jump all over a team for this kind of haphazard effort, winning masks everything.
It worked against Sacramento and Houston when the Spurs erased massive fourth-quarter deficits on their way to overtime triumphs. However, their lackadaisical approach came back to bite them against a Cavs team that wasn’t ready to surrender a ninth-straight loss.
Redefining LaMarcus’ Role
LaMarcus Aldridge and his patented turnaround jumper have been a force in the NBA for more than a decade, but the midrange specialist seems to have lost a step on both ends in year 14.
The days of countless post-ups for star big men have been replaced with a newer more efficient era of pace and space basketball, and that doesn’t bode well for an aging star whose game is predicated on receiving 50 touches per game.
Force-feeding LA isn’t working for San Antonio, and their ball movement has been free-flowing and much improved when he takes a seat. The Spurs have too many mouths to feed for the seven-time All-Star to pound away in the paint.
For the Suns fans perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun.
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.