Just when you think you have this Spurs team figured out, they throw you for a loop. After going a very impressive 8-2 to start March, effectively punching their ticket to the postseason in the process, they went just 2-2 to finish it, with the two losses being very winnable games. The game Sunday night, in which the Spurs were a 10 point favorite over the Kings, saw them unable to get over the hump and shut down Buddy Hield, particularly from beyond the arc.
They’ll kick off April with the first game of a back to back, facing a Hawks team that they beat on the road 111-104 during that 8-game win streak. That game featured big performances from LaMarcus Aldridge and Derrick White, who has struggled mightily of late with his shot. The Hawks come into this match-up with a 4-1 record in their last 5, with wins coming over the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks via the heroics of Rookie of the Year hopeful Trae Young.
With a road game tomorrow night in Denver, the Spurs should be looking for a fast start, a tight defensive performance, and an early night for their heavy guns.
Atlanta Hawks (28-49) vs. San Antonio Spurs (44-33)
March 31, 2019 | 7:30 PM CT
Watch: FSSW| Listen: WOAI
Spurs Injuries: Dejounte Murray (ACL — out)
Hawks Injuries: Taurean Prince (ankle — questionable), John Collins (doubtful — load management), Dewayne Dedmon (ankle — OUT), Omari Spellman (ankle — doubtful), Alex Poythress (ankle — questionable)
Get a hold of Trae Young
Trae Young had a very slow start to his NBA career, but he’s turned it on since the All Star break. In the 19 games since the league’s mid-season classic, he’s averaging 25 points a game on 44/37/87 shooting splits to go along with 9 assists and nearly 5 rebounds. He’s hit 2 game winners as well. This one against the 76ers:
And this one against the Milwaukee Bucks:
He shot just 5/14 against the league-leading Bucks, but his career is clearly trending in the right direction. In the Spurs win in Atlanta back in early March, he was scored 22 points, but needed 24 shots to get them. He was hounded for much of the night by Derrick White, with White more or less matching him minute for minute. It will take that sort of effort again if the Spurs want to head to Denver with 45 wins.
A note on Derrick White
In my preview for Sunday night’s game against the Kings, I implored Derrick (because I KNOW he reads PtR!) to look for his shot more on the offensive end. In his last 9 games, he’s shooting 24/74 (32%), and looking to shoot your way out of a slump is certainly one way to get over it.
Some of his misses, like this 3 from Sunday night, are examples of good misses:
While shots like this are generally a sign of tired legs:
White is vital to the Spurs being competitive on the defensive end of the ball, as he is their only perimeter defender currently with an advanced understanding of how to deny dribble penetration from the perimeter, but his poor shooting is likely what has limited him to less than 20 minutes in 2 of the Spurs last 9 games as Pop has gone with hotter hands on offense.
If the Spurs want to make any sort of noise in the playoffs, they’ll need White to get back on track when it comes to shooting the ball.
Do we get Rudy Gay or Jakob Poeltl in the starting line-up?
Pop has been pretty consistent in his starting line-up the last month or so, going for dual bigs with LaMarcus and Jakob Poeltl. However, he’s still gone back to a 4-out group with Rudy Gay to start games on occasion, notably in the Spurs’ loss to Houston. He also elected to go this route Sunday as well, with Gay going 8/12 from the field with 18 points and grabbing 9 boards. Poeltl missed the game against the Hawks in Atlanta with an injury, which pushed Gay into the starting spot that night.
With both available, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod tonight.
Vegas Line: Spurs by 9.5
Prediction: Spurs by 7
For the visiting team’s perspective, please check out Peach Tree Hoops.
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.