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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. New York Knicks

Can the Silver and Black bounce back as they kick off a five-game homestand?

San Antonio Spurs v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

San Antonio’s four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt at the hands of the Phoenix Suns as they leaned on the poised veteran presence of Chris Paul to carry them in crunch time. The Spurs must now refocus as they return to the AT&T Center for a matchup against the New York Knicks in their second SEGABABA of the season.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau and crew have gotten off to a disappointing start through the first quarter of their schedule, but they still have plenty of games left to restore equilibrium to the mecca of basketball. And they have more than enough firepower between Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and a talented supporting cast to give the Silver and Black a scare.

San Antonio Spurs (8-14) vs. New York Knicks (11-12)

December 7, 2021 | 7:30 PM CT

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

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Devin Vassell (Questionable — Quad), Devontae Cacok (Out — Two Way)

Knicks Injuries: Jericho Sims (Game Time Decision — Illness)

What To Watch For

  • Head coach Gregg Popovich got experimental against the Suns after he stuck to a tight nine-man rotation versus Golden State on Saturday night. When the starting five dug themselves into a hole that the bench couldn’t climb out of, the longtime Spurs playcaller turned to a mishmash lineup of Tre Jones, Bryn Forbes, Josh Primo, Lonnie Walker IV, and Drew Eubanks to erase a 16-point deficit. Rotations have been noticeably more fluid over the last couple of contests, and things could get interesting when Devin Vassell returns, especially if Primo remains with the big league club. Even Thaddeus Young has seen more run in recent contests, which is a breath of fresh air for the fans clamoring for midgame adjustments. San Antonio’s depth is one of its greatest assets, and the good guys might have to call on their third-stringers for minutes in a SEGABABA following another tilt decided in crunch time.
  • Knicks fans rejoiced as they snapped their seven-year playoff drought a season ago. Though they failed to advance past the first round, New York seemingly had a strong foundation built upon a defense-first identity and a versatile All-Star in Julius Randle. Reigning NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau brought meaningful basketball to Madison Square Garden, and the Knicks had approximately $50M in cap space to improve their roster. Their front office should have built upon what made them successful for the first time in almost a decade. Instead, they watched starters Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton walk while using a combined $164.5M to re-sign Alec Burks and Derrick Rose and bring Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to The Big Apple. Per Synergy, the Knicks have seen their second-ranked defense from a year ago slip to the middle of the pack at the expense of marginally improving an average offense. Suffice it to say those offseason moves haven’t paid off.
  • Derrick White floundered in Phoenix to the tune of 12 points on a frosty 4-of-12 shooting from the field. San Antonio was outscored by a team-worst 17 points when the fifth-year combo guard was on the court, and that has been the story of the season when he struggles to get anything going on the offensive end. White averaged 19.5 points while the Spurs were riding a season-high four-game winning streak, and it was no coincidence they played so well when Dejounte Murray finally had a partner in crime in the backcourt. It should also come as no shock the shorthanded Suns came out on top with as poorly as Derrick shot the ball. One off-night doesn’t warrant hitting the panic button, but the Spurs sorely need the Colorado alumnus to find some consistency as a scorer. With Dejounte presumably drawing the best perimeter defenders the Knicks have to offer, Derrick could have a perfect opportunity to feast upon matchups with Immanuel Quickley, Kemba Walker, and Alec Burks.
  • Julius Randle is the heart and soul of the Knicks, and he leads the team in points, rebounds, and assists. Despite being the human embodiment of a swiss-army knife for New York, the All-Star forward has seen a sharp drop in per-game production as well as efficiency. Unfortunately for the Knicks, he isn’t the only one experiencing early-season woes. Although RJ Barrett looked poised to make another leap in his development after a scorching nine-game start to the season, the former third overall pick has since hit a massive wall. The 21-year-old guard has now averaged a frustrating 10.4 points on .329/.224/.667 shooting splits over his last 13 appearances. New York’s jumbled mess of a roster has barely kept their heads above water with their front men battling inconsistency at every turn, but the Spurs shouldn’t take their opponent lightly. Randle and Barrett getting on the same page could spell trouble for San Antonio, and shutting them down should be the top priority.

For the Knicks fans’ perspective, visit Posting and Toasting.

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.