After snapping a season-high five-game losing streak and showing signs of life against the Mavericks and Magic, San Antonio has lost two in a row to the shorthanded Raptors and the Dameless Trailblazers. And while the road to the playoffs has become more complicated as the tenth seed, the Spurs are in for a brutal final stretch to their regular-season schedule.
The Silver and Black must shake off Friday night’s disappointing crunch time defeat and recalibrate for a matchup with the sizzling second-place Suns. Phoenix has dramatically turned their franchise around behind the veteran leadership of perennial All-Star Chris Paul, the continued rise of Devin Booker, and a complementary cast of fantastic role players.
San Antonio Spurs (26-28) @ Phoenix Suns (40-15)
April 17, 2021 | 9:00 PM CST
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Trey Lyles (Out — Ankle)
Suns Injuries: Abdel Nader (Out — Knee)
What to Watch For
- The Spurs are 9-10 in back-to-backs this season, and Phoenix presents them with an unforgiving obstacle as they attempt to regain ground in the Western Conference playoff race. Not only are the Suns 25 games above .500, but they enter the evening winners of 14 of their last 16 contests. As if the momentum wasn’t already in their favor, Phoenix also has the luxuries of a virtually vacant injury report and a few days of rest. So far, there hasn’t been any indication that Devin Booker, Chris Paul, or Deandre Ayton will sit this one out, so San Antonio will need to bring their A-game to the Silicon Desert if they want to put an end to their recent slump. Not to add to the bad news, but the Spurs are only 3-6 in SEGABABA’s so far, with their only victories coming against the Knicks, Magic, and Pistons. The Suns are miles ahead of those teams, so don’t be surprised if the good guys don’t improve their record.
- We discussed the topic of balancing the minutes of the second-unit veterans and San Antonio’s last two first-round draft selections in my previous preview. And we’ll continue to touch on it as long as it remains a relevant issue. The Spurs own the misfortune of an incredibly backloaded schedule, and something has to change if they hope to avoid slipping further down the Western Conference standings. Whether some fans want to admit it, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay undeniably have utility within an NBA rotation, but that shouldn’t exclude them from being shown the bench every once in a while. And when Rudy and Patty aren’t playing well, there’s no reason Gregg Popovich can’t make a mid-game adjustment to get Devin Vassell and Luka Samanic some minutes. The former was a staple of the rotation when San Antonio was a season-best 22-16 in mid-March. The same can’t be said for Samanic, though he filled in admirably for Rudy Gay and Keldon Johnson in the five games preceding the All-Star Break. There isn’t much to suggest either will get much run on Saturday, though it’s always possible if this meeting gets out of hand.
- There’s no denying the three-pointer has become an integral part of the NBA, and while tossing up 40 triples per night isn’t necessary to field a winning team, it’s become increasingly challenging to contend without multiple elite floor-spacers. Although you can mitigate the need for a plethora of sharpshooters with superstar offensive talents and an elite defense, San Antonio possesses neither. The Spurs are neither a high-volume nor high-efficiency long-range ball club, and their numbers from beyond the arc have only worsened as of late. The Silver and Black rank 27th in three-point attempts (28.2) and are knocking down their limited looks at the eighth-worst clip (33.5%) over their last nine outings. Phoenix, however, is top ten in the NBA in both categories (35.7 3PA on 40.5%) during that same timeframe. And when teams that outscore their opponents from the perimeter come away with a victory on most nights, it’s hard to imagine Patty, Rudy, Lonnie, and Derrick being enough to top the Suns.
For the Suns fans’ perspective, visit Bright Side Of The Sun.
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.