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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks

The Silver and Black look to snap their three-game losing skid as they face Luka Doncic in a divisional matchup.

San Antonio Spurs v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak on the road against their in-state rival, the Dallas Mavericks. After losing in the final minutes of overtime against the LeBron-less Los Angeles Lakers for their third straight loss, it would be great to see the Silver and Black get some momentum going.

The I-35 rivalry has taken many twists and turns over the years, from ejections to heated playoff battles. A variety of infamous moments to choose from, like Tim Duncan and Joey Crawford’s bench incident back in 2007, to Dirk Nowitzki’s and-one that eliminated the Spurs in 2006, or San Antonio’s 42-15 run that got them into the 2003 NBA Finals, there’s no love lost between the two in-state franchises. Thursday night’s contest will be the 188th game between the two ball clubs, and though the stakes won’t be high, there are plenty of expectations.

The Spurs will be without a starter while the Mavericks may be dealing with a hampered Kristaps Porzingis, who came up hobbling during Tuesday’s game against the Rockets with a back issue. But even if they are missing one of their high profile players, the home team has plenty of offensive firepower and frontcourt depth to push the Spurs to their limit on both ends of the floor.

San Antonio Spurs (1-3) at Dallas Mavericks (2-1)

October 28, 2021 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports SW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Doug McDermott (Out — Knee), Zach Collins (Out — Ankle)

Mavericks Injuries: Kristaps Porzingis (Questionable — Back)

Can Jakob Poeltl maintain his high-level play?

Jakob Poeltl has arguably been San Antonio’s best player through four games. To start the 2021-22 season, the Austrian big man has averaged 16.0 points, 10.8 boards, one block, and one steal per game on 72% shooting from the field. Between stunning efficiency as a roll man and anchoring the defense as a rim protector, Jakob has been a stalwart on both ends of the floor. Poeltl has not only played well individually, but also has been the quintessential glue guy for this young Spurs team thanks to his solid touch as a short-roll passer and ability to distribute as a playmaking hub out of the post. Now, Poeltl faces a Mavericks frontcourt that has been able to crash the offensive glass at the seventh-best rate in the NBA, but also allows the most points per possession when defending the roll-man. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on whether or not Jakob can be a difference-maker once again on Thursday, especially with Kristaps Porzingis expected to play in a limited capacity.

What happens to the Spurs’ shooting without Doug McDermott?

So far in this young season, the Spurs are have struggled to connect from beyond the arc. San Antonio’s 32.3 three-point attempts per game is an improvement from past seasons, but their percentage has dropped from 35% in 2020 to 32% through four games in 2021. To make matters worse, they head into Thursday’s contest without their resident sharpshooter, who’s been strikingly accurate from three-point land (45.5%), while challenging defenses to keep up with all of the off-ball movement he uses to get himself open. Be sure to keep an eye out on how San Antonio spaces the floor on Thursday with Dougie McBuckets on the sideline.

Will San Antonio’s youth movement continue full speed ahead?

So far, the San Antonio Spurs have been reluctant to play veterans Bryn Forbes and Thaddeus Young for extended periods. In years past, head coach Gregg Popovich has very much taken the opposite approach, leaning on experienced players while easing their young talent into meaningful roles. But after Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, with Bryn Forbes and Thad Young combining for 6 minutes of total playing time and a -13 rating to show for it, their identity has seemingly taken a turn in a completely different direction. Thursday night might be a sign of things to come for San Antonio’s veterans. With McDermott out, the Spurs have a hole at power forward and a need for shooting. If we get another minimal showing from Forbes and Young even while the team is shorthanded and could use them, it could mean the Silver and Black has decided to relegate the veteran pairing into minuscule roles, potentially leaving them outside of the rotation altogether.

For the Mavericks’ fans’ perspective, visit Mavs Moneyball.

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