The Spurs went from being among the organizations least affected by COVID-19 to having four consecutive contests postponed after four positive coronavirus test results surfaced on President’s Day. Without the services of several starters and critical rotational pieces, San Antonio must now overcome the obstacle of playing their first game in ten days.
Not only were the Silver and Black forced into an extended basketball hiatus, but they were mandated to quarantine in their Charlotte hotel rooms for an entire week. And as you might imagine, being holed up in a little more than 300 square feet of space probably made it incredibly difficult for them to maintain any conditioning, chemistry, or rhythm.
While you can never discount any NBA opponent, San Antonio has caught a bit of a break drawing the reeling Thunder, who have dropped seven of their last nine outings. Oklahoma City still sports a cast of talented defensive-minded players, so coach Pop will have plenty of work cut out for him when the Spurs resume the Rodeo Road Trip on Wednesday night.
San Antonio Spurs (16-11) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (12-19)
February 24, 2021 | 7:00 PM CST
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Rudy Gay (Out — COVID Protocols), Keldon Johnson (Out — COVID Protocols), Devin Vassell (Out — COVID Protocols), Derrick White (Out — COVID Protocols), Quinndary Weatherspoon (Out — COVID Protocols), DeMar DeRozan (Out — Personal), LaMarcus Aldridge (Questionable — Hip)
Thunder Injuries: Trevor Ariza (Out — Personal), George Hill (Out — Thumb), Al Horford (Day-to-Day — Rest)
Managing the Madness
To say the Silver and Black are entering this contest shorthanded would be an understatement. San Antonio was down to seven healthy players before recalling Tre Jones and Luka Samanic from the G-League bubble last Sunday. Even if LaMarcus Aldridge suits up, that would only provide enough depth for a ten-man rotation, including three centers.
Gregg Popovich has the unpropitious task of juggling a combination of regular starters, inexperienced newcomers, and a few career journeymen.Despite an uncertain road to victory, PATFO should be ecstatic to give Luka and Tre their first legitimate NBA opportunity following their stellar performance with the Austin Spurs through the first half of the season.
Head coach Matt Nielsen on what he expects from Luka and Tre after their NBA call-up: pic.twitter.com/9DzJiSv4CR— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) February 23, 2021
Whatever happens, no one should be too critical of the Spurs should they struggle to pick up a dub against the lowly Thunder. Most of these guys haven’t played together in a meaningful way since preseason training camp ended in December, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see growing pains arise in the form of turnovers and defensive miscommunications.
Fans and the franchise alike will also have an excellent chance to see how Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, and Jakob Poeltl respond to a spike in their responsibilities. And getting third-stringers like Drew Eubanks, Trey Lyles, and Keita Bates Diop some live-action seasoning will only improve San Antonio’s depth once they return to health.
Stopping Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
As was the case last time these Western Conference foes met, stopping Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should be San Antonio’s top priority. The third-year combo guard paces the Thunder with 22.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists per game on 51/41/78 shooting splits, and Oklahoma City virtually lives and dies based on his contributions.
The Thunder attack flows through their herky-jerky playmaker, and they are respectable 7-4 when he notches at least 24 points and a measly 5-15 when he fails to reach that mark. Their second-most reliable option is a 34-year-old past-his-prime Al Horford, so if the Spurs can cut the head off the snake, then the rest of the offense should fade.
Lonnie spent more time as the primary defender on SGA than any other Spur in their initial tilt, and it would be safe to assume the third-year two-guard will once again carry the burden covering him. Dejounte might see significant time guarding Shai, though San Antonio will need all they can get out of him on the other end if they hope to emerge victorious.
For the Thunder fans’ perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.
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.