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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers

COVID strikes yet again, as the Spurs will face one of the East’s hottest teams on Friday night.

Philadelphia 76ers v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

After a near-collapse of epic proportions down the stretch on Wednesday night, the San Antonio Spurs finally ended what was a four-game losing skid against the Boston Celtics. Hopefully, Friday night’s bout against the Philidelphia 76ers will not come down to an inbound play, but after San Antonio’s recent bad luck with COVID-19 and Philidelphia riding a five-game winning streak, the Spurs need a lot to go in their favor if they’re looking to pull off this upset.

The Silver and Black have been flirting all year long with the play-in seedings, currently standing at 10th in the Western Conference. It’s been a tough road for the young Spurs, from a rough start to start the year to COVID-19 laying waste to the roster, the Spurs seemingly get dumped with a bucket of ice water every time they threaten to get hot.

Philly and SA couldn’t be in more different situations. The 76ers are trying to compete for a title with The Simmons Debacle hanging over their heads, but they’ve turned things around and now look like the team we all thought they could be. Picking up recent wins over Brooklyn and Toronto, the 76ers have shot 38.7% or better from deep in each of their last five games. They’ve also held teams to 103 points or fewer in four of their last seven games.

Entering Friday’s game with just a 39% chance of victory according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index prior to their COVID outbreak, the San Antonio Spurs, especially those who are just now entering the building coming off of 10-day contracts, will have their work cut out for them if they’re looking to pull off yet another upset.

San Antonio Spurs (15-22) @ Philadelphia 76ers (21-16)

January 7, 2022 | 6:00 PM CST

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

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Devin Vassell (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Derrick White (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Keldon Johnson (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Thaddeus Young (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Doug McDermott (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Lonnie Walker IV (Questionable — Return to Competition Reconditioning), Devontae Cacock (Questionable — Return to Competition Reconditioning)

Sixers Injuries: Ben Simmons (Out — Personal), Paul Reed (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Tyrese Maxey (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Jaden Springer (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Mattise Thybulle (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Shake Milton (Day-to-Day — Back)

What to watch for:

  • Who will make the most of their opportunities? The Spurs will be missing at least three starters and two rotational pieces heading into Friday’s game. This is another big opportunity for guys like Josh Primo and Tre Jones, but also for emergency additions Tyler Johnson and Anthony Lamb, who may have a shot at contributing in a way over the next week. San Antonio will need everything imaginable to conquer this giant, but even if they fall short, it will be worth keeping an eye on who makes the most out of their reps, as there will be plenty of opportunities to go around after the Spurs recent COVID outbreak.
  • Can San Antonio force Philidelphia to match their style of play? Nearly 40 games into the 2021-22 season, it’s safe to say we have a good idea of what teams’ bread and butter looks like. The San Antonio Spurs love to “run-and-gun”, as an offense, ranking 4th in the NBA in pace, and they love to play aggressive defense (for better or for worse) and create extra possessions, as they rank 5th in the NBA in possessions per game. The 76ers enter Friday’s game in the complete opposite direction. Not only does Philidelphia rank 27th in pace, but they also rank 27th in possessions per game as well. Even more so, the 76ers look to force teams into playing half-court hoops, forcing their opponent to match their pace and make every possession count. Philly ranks 9th in the NBA in half-court points per 100 plays, while San Antonio ranks 18th in the same category. It’s no secret, the Spurs still struggle as a half-court offense, it’ll be worth noting how these Spurs battle against a ballclub that could force this group into fewer possessions and a slower pace than what they are comfortable with.
  • If this game comes down to clutch time, can San Antonio close the game out? Not only did San Antonio’s win against the Celtics on Wednesday snap a four-game losing skid, but it also gave the Silver and Black their fifth win in “clutch time” of the season. Through 15 games in the clutch, the Spurs rank 25th in winning percentage, and their performances match the eye test. On the flip side, the 76ers have played a league-leading 24 games this season that enter clutch time. Of those games, Philly ranks top 10 in winning percentage with the third-most games in the clutch. San Antonio’s execution late in games has been questionable, and a now depleted roster won’t help the situation. If it gets to that point, who will come through when they need it most?

For the Sixers fans’ perspective, visit Liberty Ballers.

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.