The retooled San Antonio Spurs fell to the second-place Chicago Bulls as DeMar DeRozan racked up 40 points while showcasing his all-too-familiar crunchtime heroics. Despite dropping another close contest, head coach Gregg Popovich and crew now look to get back on track while continuing their cross-country traverse on the Rodeo Road Trip.
Next up for the Silver and Black is a date with the shorthanded Oklahoma City Thunder, a winnable tilt that could bring them within striking distance of claiming a spot within the play-in tournament. OKC might be without a pair of their leading scorers on Wednesday night, but they have a talented troupe of youngsters led by Josh Giddey and Tre Mann.
San Antonio Spurs (22-36) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (18-39)
February 16, 2022 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Tre Jones (Doubtful — Knee), Devontae Cacok (Out — Two Way), Joe Wieskamp (Out — Two Way)
Thunder Injuries: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Out — Ankle), Mike Muscala (Out — Ankle), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Out — Foot), Luguentz Dort (Game Time Decision — Shoulder), Lindy Waters III (Out — Two Way)
What To Watch For
- What do Kenrich Williams, Mamadi Diakite, Ty Jerome, Isaiah Roby, Aaron Wiggins, Vit Krejci, Lindy Waters III have in common? Aside from the fact the average NBA fan likely has no idea who they are, these youngsters all play for the Thunder. Considering the majority of that group suits up for at least 20 minutes per game, it is glaringly telling which direction Oklahoma City has committed to this season. Their not-so-under-the-radar tank job and stockpiling of draft capital has them in a strikingly similar situation to what former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie constructed when he began “The Process” during the mid-2010s. Is it possible all this intentional losing and swinging for the fences in the lottery year after year might pay off? Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons formed a superstar tandem that helped carry the City of Brotherly Love deep into the postseason, so it isn’t impossible. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks like a potential franchise cornerstone, Josh Giddey has the makings of an All-Star, and Lu Dort is a helluva defender. But only Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Kenrich Williams, and Aaron Wiggins have shown the potential to serve as everyday role players for a team that doesn’t figure to be competitive again for at least a couple more seasons. Although San Antonio will presumably see plenty of these developmental projects in action on Wednesday night, don’t let that fool you into thinking the Spurs should pencil in a victory. They have lost to lesser clubs on more than one occasion throughout the first half of their schedule, and they can’t afford to give a lackluster effort.
- Josh Giddey assumed primary ball-handling responsibilities for Oklahoma City when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went down with a right ankle sprain in their penultimate game of January. Although it would have been perfectly understandable for the rookie point-forward to wither under the pressure of steering an anemic offense with few legitimate options at his disposal, Giddey has responded by playing some of the brightest basketball of his career. The 19-year-old Aussie has averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 boards, and 7.6 assists per game since the calendar flipped to February, putting him in a position to take home a fourth consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award. The six-eight playmaker only strengthened his case as one of the best first-year performers in the league when he registered his second straight triple-double on Monday night. Not only did Giddey finish the contest with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists, but he led the Thunder down the stretch as they knocked off the New York Knicks in overtime at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Between Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, and Josh Richardson, the Silver and Black have the personnel to pester Josh Giddey. Hindering the dynamic passing dynamo is San Antonio’s best shot at getting back into the win column before the All-Star Break, and they should toss several different looks at the rookie.
- While Derrick White has been busy helping the Boston Celtics keep their league-leading nine-game winning streak alive since landing in Beantown during the trade deadline, Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford still have yet to suit up for the good guys. It took some time for the pair to get their mandatory physicals, but they passed and were approved to join the team in Chicago on Monday. Tomas Satorasnky was in a similar dilemma when the Spurs acquired him via a multi-team deal a few days prior, but he also joined San Antonio for their Rodeo Road Trip. Unfortunately, none of their new additions saw a single minute against the Bulls. Perhaps head coach Gregg Popovich was giving them time to adjust, or maybe he was leaning on already established rotations. Whatever the case, there is a possibility fans might see the trio will find their way onto the court versus Oklahoma City if the Silver and Black take care of business early. Integrating players into an unfamiliar organization in the middle of the season is already hard enough. Attempting to do so amid the longest stretch away from the AT&T Center only complicates things. With that said, the sooner Satorasnky, Richardson, and Langford build chemistry with their teammates, the better.
For the Thunder fans’ perspective, please 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.