Well, the San Antonio Spurs are back on the road following a brief home-stand, and they ride into North Carolina after a tough loss to the Indiana Pacers. Unable to string together an extended winning streak in the latter half of the season, the Spurs are just doing their best to tread water in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
This will be the second and final contest for these teams, as San Antonio looks to avoid a losing streak and seal the series sweep in the process. The Silver and Black cruised their way to a twenty-four point win in their last match-up, holding the league-worst offense to eleven points in the third quarter, but that was at home, and San Antonio has been shaky on the road against even the least troubling opponents, so there’s no guarantee to be had here. Hopefully our lads will treat the game accordingly and continue to fight their way to another win.
San Antonio Spurs (25-34) at Charlotte Hornets (21-39)
March 3, 2020 | 6:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Jakob Poeltl (Out - MCL Strain), LaMarcus Aldridge (Out - Shoulder)
Charlotte Injuries: Devonte’ Graham (Out - Ankle)
What to watch for:
- A Rudy Gay Resurgence: It goes almost without saying that San Antonio’s front-court will be a critical match-up until the return of the Spurs starting big men, but just as critical will be Rudy’s ability to pick up the slack on the offensive end in LaMarcus Aldridge’s absence. Gay has played a more constrained and efficient version of his game for the Silver and Black thus far, but this is the first time since his arrival that his ability to light up the scoreboard will be depended on rather than seen as a complimentary boon. The Spurs will (at least temporarily) need a bit more of the bucket-happy Rudy of yore, and I expect that Pop will be looking to run more plays his way. This stretch could do a lot to salvage negative perceptions of Rudy’s up-and-down season and determine whether he has a continued future in the Alamo City as something other than a tradable asset. Regression to the mean from long-distance would be particularity helpful in the case, as Rudy is still shooting below his career 3pt% of 34.6, and is sporting a horrific 24.7% mark on three point shots categorized as ‘wide open’.
- The Next Man Up: Over the last 20+ years the Spurs have successfully touted this mindset, particularly near the end of the Big Three’s run, as injuries began to arise more frequently. More often than not San Antonio’s players have risen to the occasion as contributions have come from a wide variety of the little-used (Dewayne Dedmon, Matt Bonner), the virtually unknown (Jonathan Simmons, Gary Neal), the supposedly washed-up (Boris Diaw, Fabricio Oberto) and the undervalued (George Hill, Cory Joseph). The Spurs will once again have to rely on the contributions of the underutilized and the up-and-comers, and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will end up surprising the most. Knowing full well what Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Lonnie Walker IV are capable of, my bet is on Trey Lyles, who recently showed out against both the Orlando Magic and the Indiana Pacers to the tune of 20 points. If nothing else, this will likely give us an extended look at the future of this team.
- Learning Not To Play Down To The Competition: Considering that most of the Spurs main contributors are 30+, it’s easy to forget how young this team is. At an average of 26.3 years-old per player (which is further skewed experience-wise by players like Bryn Forbes , Derrick White  and Jakob Poeltl , who have less seasons played than most players their age) this is the youngest and most inexperienced roster that Gregg Popovich has coached in the NBA. It’s no coincidence that San Antonio has had some consistency issues this year, particularly in regards to late game execution. The Charlotte Hornets are a wreck of a team, who sit at or near the bottom five in just about every team statistic NBA.com has to offer, (Seriously, it’s bad, ya’ll) but this is another area that the Spurs have struggled with this season, losing games against the Hawks (19-43), Cavs (17-43), Timberwolves (17-42), Bulls (20-40), Pistons (20-42), and even the perennial dumpster-fire that is James Dolan’s Knicks (18-42). Learning to beat the bad teams is a crucial step for a team that’s already proven that they have the moxie to take it to the league’s heavyweights. Winning this one going-away would be a big step for a roster still going through some inevitable growing-pains.
For the Hornets’ fans’ perspective, visit At The Hive.
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.