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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Silver and Black looks to sustain their momentum as an Eastern Conference contender comes to town.

San Antonio Spurs v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs notched their first winning streak since October as they pulled off an unlikely upset over the Miami Heat on Saturday, but can they sustain their momentum when they host a possible contender? While Gregg Popovich piloted the youngsters to victories versus down-on-their-luck ball clubs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in another echelon.

The Silver and Black are trending in the right direction, and their opponent should be a dependable litmus test to gauge the legitimacy of their recent success. Though Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell are developing into a potent one-two punch, how will they compare to a starstudded quartet of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley?

San Antonio Spurs (8-18) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (17-10)

December 12, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: KENS 5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs: Blake Wesley (Out — Knee), Jakob Poeltl (Out — Knee), Keita Bates-Diop (Out — Foot), Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way), Jeremy Sochan (Questionable — Quad),

Cavaliers: Dylan Windler (Out — Ankle), Dean Wade (Out — Shoulder), Ricky Rubio (Out — Knee), Mamadi Diakite (Out — Two-Way), Kevin Love (Questionable — Back), Donovan Mitchell (Questionable — Leg)

What To Watch For

  • Cleveland instantly placed their name into Eastern Conference contention after dealing for Donovan Mitchell this summer. While the Cavaliers had to fork over a stash of future draft picks and young assets to obtain Mitchell, he has already formed one of the best backcourts in the league alongside Darius Garland. The All-Star tandem has combined to average 50.6 points and 12.7 assists per game, providing fans with a nightly dose of high-level self-creation and aesthetically satisfying playmaking. San Antonio had the challenge of covering a pair of high-scoring interchangeable ball handlers when they faced Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons last month. Though the Spurs ultimately lost in a nail-biter, the experience from that matchup might come in handy when they host DG and Spida. Even if the Silver and Black bottle up the sharpshooting guards, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has numerous alternative options to light up the scoreboard. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are nimble seven-footers with complementary skills, so don’t be shocked if San Antonio resorts to two-center lineups. Caris LeVert can explode for a 40-piece on any given night, and Kevin Love has reinvented himself into a sixth man of the year candidate during the twilight years of his decorated NBA career.
  • We often highlight the glimmers of brilliance from youngsters like Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell, but sometimes the supporting cast deserves a moment in the limelight. Zach Collins and Charles Bassey have stepped with Jakob Poeltl out of commission, delivering the Spurs a much-needed injection of life on both ends of the court. Despite fouling out on Saturday, the former made Bam Adebayo a near non-factor, using a physical brand of post-defense to take the All-Star center out of his comfort zone. As for the latter, though he may not have the most discipline, Bassey makes the most of his tools as an enthusiastic rim-runner and reactive shot-blocker. With All-Star Jarrett Allen and Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley manning the frontcourt for the Cavaliers, San Antonio might need another spectacular performance from their temporarily promoted bigs. This new-age version of the twin towers doesn’t come close to David Robinson and Tim Duncan as scorers. However, their paint protection and switchability are the main reasons Cleveland allows the fewest points per game (104.8) in the league by a wide margin. Bassey and Collins making them work for everything on both sides of the ball could go a long way toward helping the Spurs pick up a third consecutive victory.

For the Cavaliers fans’ perspective, please visit Fear The Sword.

The Game Thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action on PtR’s Twitter feed.