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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Charlotte Hornets

Can the Spurs build a win streak against the protocol-stricken Hornets?

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Riding in off of a victory over the Zion-less New Orleans Pelicans, the Spurs have lucked into a similarly advantageous situation, with the Covid-Protocol gutted Charlotte Hornets coming to town.

The Hornets will have at least three players out in this one, including one of their best players (and primary ball-handler) in sophomore LaMelo Ball, so the Spurs will need to do what they’ve successfully done for most of the season, and beat another disadvantaged squad.

Even without Ball, the Hornets are an interesting squad, capable of exploding offensively at any given moment. Charlotte ranks 2nd in points scored and 3rd in offensive rating, as well as 3rd in effective field goal percentage, 7th in true shooting percentage, and 4th in field-goal percentage.

Fortunately, they’re also one of the worst teams in the league defensively, ranking dead last in defensive rating, 2nd to last in opponents effective field goal percentage, 2nd to last in 2nd chance points allowed, 3rd worst in points in the paint allowed, and 4th worst in opponents field goal percentage allowed.

Sporting a negative net-rating and down several key contributors, the Hornets should be easy pickings for a Spurs team that’s finally healthy and getting into a groove. But the Borrego-led Hornets have been a tricky opponent for the Spurs in recent years, and there’s always a chance that that could come into play again.

Charlotte Hornets (15-13) at San Antonio Spurs (10-16)

December 15, 2021 | 7:30 PM CT

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

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins - Out (Foot)

Hornets Injuries: LaMelo Ball - Questionable (Covid-19 Protocols), Mason Plumlee - Questionable (Calf/Return from Covid-19 Protocols), Ish Smith - Questionable (Covid-19 Protocols)

What to watch for:

  • The Continued Reemergence of Derrick White - One of the big contributing factors in this recent streak of good play has been the return of Derrick White’s offensive confidence. Previously injured and out of rhythm, White has finally got the mojo going again, scoring 23+ points in five of the last eight games. Unsurprisingly, the Spurs are 4-1 in games in which White has scored that many points, and shooting 10% better from the floor than he did in the month of November has been big part of that.
  • An Evolving Shot Profile - It’s been subtle, but the Spurs have begun to gradually shift their shots from the mid-range. From the first game of the season to November 21st, the Spurs were scoring 11.8% of their points from the mid-range, but from November 22nd to now, that percentage has fallen to 8.7%. And more specifically, from December 1st onward, that percentage has fallen to 6.6% of all points scored by the Spurs. A five percent decrease might not seem like much, but it’s the difference between being 7th in the league in mid-range scoring, and 22nd. Coincidentally, the Spurs have experienced their best stretches of sustained play during that same period of time. It looks as though these young Spurs are finally finding their own way after years of playing in an offense with an outdated shot profile. Let’s hope it holds.

Professor Pittsley’s Primer: “Recently BBall Index released LEBRON and it’s been fun to see how the league looks. This match-up is the tale of two cites. San Antonio is a better defensive team and Charlotte has a dynamic offense. This chart shows that separation pretty clearly.”

For the Hornets’ fans’ perspective, visit At The Hive.

PtR’s Game thread 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.