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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns

It’s another key match-up in the Race for 8th.

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Coming off a win against the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs will be looking to win consecutive games on a SEGABABA for the first time this season in a visit to the rising Phoenix Suns. The Spurs remain very much in the hunt for the playoffs, but they can’t afford to lose any more games they should win. Tonight is one of those games, and even in January, there is still plenty at stake if the Spurs hope to be playing past April 15.

San Antonio Spurs (18-23) at Phoenix Suns (18-24)

January 20, 2020 | 8:00 PM CT

Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Rudy Gay (illness — questionable)

Suns Injuries: Kelly Oubre Jr. (concussion — day-to-day), Cameron Johnson (quad — day-to-day), Frank Kaminsky (knee — out)

Another key game in the Race for 8th

The race for the 8th seed in the West remains as tight as ever, with just 5 games separating the 8th place Memphis Grizzlies (20-22) and 14th place Sacramento Kings (15-27). As we enter the second half of the season, every game becomes more and more vital, especially against teams in that pack for both outcome and tie-breaker purposes.

While the Spurs have done a good job lately against teams above them in the standings, they have struggled all season (and last) to bring proper focus against equal or lesser teams, with the two most recent examples being a loss in Memphis that handed them the 8th seed and a horrendous home loss to the cellar-dwelling Hawks.

While the Spurs won the first meeting of the season against Suns — a 121-119 OT decision in Mexico City — that win came without an injured Devin Booker, as well former top draft pick Deandre Ayton, who was suspended the first 25 games of the season for violating he league’s anti-doping policies. His return 12 games ago pretty much aligns with the Suns recent surge (they have won 7 of their last 11 games) as he’s averaging 17.6 points on 54% shooting and 12.3 rebounds.

The Spurs have improved to an extent since their last meeting too, posting an 8-7 record, but they could have been better, especially against those aforementioned equal and lesser teams. Phoenix is one of those teams, and rival to boot, so the Spurs will need to bring their A-game and begin creating some separation behind them, let alone catch back up to the surging Grizzles.

The Spurs’ role players need to show up

Both DeMar DeRozan, whose record streak of games with 20+ points on 50% shooting and 3+ assists ended yesterday against the Heat, and LaMarcus Aldridge have been playing well lately, so a lot of results have been dependent on if the role players show up or not. Beyond Patty Mills, the remainder of the rotation has been hit or miss on most nights.

Typically at least two of the good versions of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Bryn Forbes show up in wins (although White was really the only one who played well on Sunday). While Lonnie Walker IV is still mostly getting passes from fans (but not Pop) when he has off nights, it’s certainly a big boon to the Spurs when he contributes to games with his signature energy, hits some threes to keep the offense spread out, and plays good defense.

It will certainly be helpful to the rotation if they can get Rudy Gay back from illness since that means less Marco Belinelli and super-small line-ups in general, and Jakob Poeltl will need to be ready to fight down low against The Big Banger Aron Baynes. The Spurs will be focused on stopping Booker, but the Suns are much more than that (complete with annual Spurs killer Ricky Rubio). It will require a full team effort to get another important win on the road.

For the Suns fans’ perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this afternoon for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.