The San Antonio Spurs can breathe a temporary sigh of relief after ending their eleven-game losing streak with a relatively comfortable dub over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. Although the youngsters defeated an equally inexperienced team at the AT&T Center, upsetting the Miami Heat on the road will be a much steeper challenge.
Despite playing most of this season shorthanded, the Silver and Black are steadily recovering rotation pieces from the injury report. Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Tre Jones must show up for San Antonio to have a shot at emerging victorious, so watch out for how they stack up versus the big three of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro.
San Antonio Spurs (7-18) at Miami Heat (12-14)
December 10, 2022 | 4:00 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs: Blake Wesley (Out — Knee), Jakob Poeltl (Out — Knee), Jeremy Sochan (Out — Quad), Keita Bates-Diop (Out — Foot), Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way), Devin Vassell (Questionable — Knee)
Heat: Gabe Vincent (Out — Knee), Omer Yurtseven (Out — Ankle), Jamal Cain (Out — Two-Way), Nikola Jovic (Out — On Assignment), Dewayne Dedmon (Questionable — Foot), Jimmy Butler (Probable — Knee), Victor Oladipo (Probable — Knee), Duncan Robinson (Probable — Ankle), Max Strus (Probable — Shoulder), Tyler Herro (Probable — Ankle)
Can Keldon Johnson Stay Hot Against the Heat?
The basketball gods finally decided to show Keldon Johnson some mercy, and he definitively squashed his prolonged slump. The fourth-year combo forward dominated Houston to the tune of 32 points on 14-of-21 shooting on Thursday, propelling the Spurs to their first dub in nearly a month.
This well-overdue breakthrough began with numerous physical drives through contact and evolved into an array of floaters, hook shots, transition slams, midrange jumpers, and catch-and-shoot threes. The 23-year-old slasher was more aggressive and decisive with the ball, and his confidence paid dividends against a lesser opponent.
Hopefully, Keldon can carry some of his momentum from the last contest into a more formidable matchup with an Eastern Conference playoff hopeful. The Rockets had no rim protector to deter or alter shots around the basket, and Miami averages the fewest blocks per game (3.3) in the NBA. However, the Heat also allow the third-fewest shots inside the restricted area due to their no-middle philosophy.
Keldon could be in line for another phenomenal performance, but things are never simple when you’re the go-to scorer on a squad that struggles to generate efficient offense. Having multiple-time All-Defense honorees like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo cover you throughout the night could further complicate matters for the Big Body.
Putting the Kibosh on Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo could pose a significant threat to San Antonio on Saturday, especially without Jakob Poeltl patrolling the paint. The All-Star center is on a heater, averaging 26.9 points and 9.0 rebounds on incredibly efficient 58.9% shooting in the seven games since Thanksgiving passed.
Miami has fallen well short of expectations, sporting a losing record almost a quarter into the season after winning 53 games a year ago. However, the Heat are gradually getting back on track thanks to Adebayo. Their two-way anchor is one of the rare big men who can protect the rim and legitimately switch one through five, which is one of the main reasons they lay claim to a top-ten scoring defense in the league (110.2 OPPG).
Zach Collins will probably draw the assignment of covering Bam, but the spot-starter leads the NBA in fouls per game (4.5) over the last two weeks, and the Spurs might have to depend on Charles Bassey. That might not be the worst-case scenario for head coach Gregg Popovich as the two-way signee has flashed stellar shot-blocking and low-post defense.
Even if the Silver and Black manage to hold Adebayo in check, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Kyle Lowry can take over a matchup if you give them an inch of breathing room.
For the Heat fans’ perspective, please visit Hot Hot Hoops.
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