When the sports world came to a halt back in March during these unprecedented times, no one knew what the future would bring. Players weren’t allowed to get together for any basketball activities, with facilities closing around the league. The possibility of the season restarting seemed to be far-fetched the longer the league went without a finalized plan to return.
Fast-forward to now, 5 days into the NBA’s restart, and it is sort of hard to believe (for me at least) that not only are the Spurs playing their 3rd game of their NBA Bubble experience tonight, but it’s a SEGABABA, their first since assistant coach Tim Duncan (REMEMBER!?) took the reigns in Charlotte on March 3rd and helped guide the team to a wild 104-103 victory.
They’ll take on a Philadelphia 76ers team coached by long-time Spurs assistant and Pop pal Brett Brown. Philly is coming off a loss to the Indiana Pacers Saturday night in which they blew a 10-point 4th quarter lead and were absolutely lit up by T.J. Warren, who finished the night with 53 points and what felt like too many daggers to count. The Spurs lost their only meeting of the year thus far with the 76ers, a 114-105 loss in Philadelphia.
San Antonio Spurs (29-36) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (39-27)
August 3, 2020 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: LaMarcus Aldridge (Shoulder — Out), Trey Lyles (Appendix — Out), Bryn Forbes (Quad — Out), Marco Belinelli (Foot — Questionable)
76ers Injuries: Glenn Robinson lll (Hip — Doubtful), Mike Scott (Knee — Out)
The Spurs are up against some serious size (again)
Regardless of one’s feelings of the role and need for big men in today’s game, one of the points of concern for the Spurs going back to the offseason was the lack of depth at the pivot once you got passed LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl. With Aldridge missing the restart, that lack of big man depth is even more glaring, and while the club did sign former UNC big man Tyler Zeller ahead of Orlando, Pop opted to go with Rudy Gay at the 5 for stretches during the Spurs’ first game against the Kings.
Contrast this with what Philly is rolling with. While it is true that the 76ers are big at nearly every position, their center rotation consists of Joel Embiid and Al Horford. Against Indiana, Embiid went 15/23, scored 41 points and pulled down 21 (!!) rebounds, while Horford came off the bench and added 10 points and 6 rebounds of his own. That’s a lot of production at the 5 spot that the Spurs will need to do their best to limit while having disadvantages at both size and depth.
Ben Simmons is no longer the 76ers point guard
Ben Simmons remains an enigma in his 3rd season as a pro. His size, athleticism, and court vision have captivated viewers since his time at LSU, but his lack of an outside shot remains a glaring issue that makes him a tough fit at times, especially on a 76ers team constructed as it currently is. After having him spend much of his first three years as an athletic oversized point guard who was notoriously unwilling to take outside shots, the 76ers are using the NBA restart to experiment with Simmons at the power forward position.
The move to PF helps to lighten the load on Simmons by giving him possessions that don’t have him bringing the ball up. When this occurs, the 76ers get him involved by having him post up at one of the elbows, running the offense through here. Because of his size, quickness, and athleticism, he should have an advantage against a variety of match-ups. He did this numerous times against Indiana.
The Spurs will want to do their best to keep Simmons on the perimeter, where he continues to be a non-threat to even attempt a jump shot. This remains the biggest flaw in his game and prevents him from really being able to take over a game down the stretch. This was on display against Indiana, where he attempted just a single shot in the last 5 minutes of what was a close game effectively leaving the 76ers to play 4-on-5 on offense. The 76ers will likely continue to find themselves in this same scenario against the best teams as long as Simmons completely ignores shooting anywhere besides the lane.
For the 76ers fan’s perspective, visit Liberty Ballers.
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.