The San Antonio Spurs are back in the loss column after falling to the Miami Heat in a tight contest that was probably much closer than it should have been, considering the absences of primary contributors in Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl.
Coming into Memphis while searching for their first series win this season, the Spurs are looking to prove themselves more than just pesky after their recent run of (relative) success.
Having gone 5-3 in their last eight games, the Spurs have enjoyed a surprising post-deadline boost, leading the NBA in points scored, field goal percentage, and assists, while also ranking 2nd in offensive rating and 3rd in true shooting percentage in that same stretch of games.
Unfortunately, the Memphis Grizzlies are also in relatively good shape, missing only their consistent provocateur in Dillon Brooks from their list of major contributors, and slowly but steadily pulling themselves up the defensive rankings, while continuing to field a top-five offense as well.
While there’s an outside chance that the Spurs will be without Murray, Poeltl, and Johnson yet again, my guess is that their last absence was more rest-oriented than medically necessary, and we’ll seen them back in the fray in this one.
Either way, the Spurs are bound to have their hand full in this one, in what’s sure to be a relatively rowdy FedExForum full of the history of a still-lingering rivalry. Good luck guessing how this one will go, but hopefully the Spurs will be able to come away with one of the victories needed to split the season series.
San Antonio Spurs (24-37) at Memphis Grizzlies (42-20)
February 28, 2022 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest| Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Romeo Langford - Questionable (Groin), Jakob Poeltl - Day-to-Day (Back), Dejounte Murray - Day-to-Day (Knee), Keldon Johnson - Day-to-Day (Back)
Grizzlies Injuries: Dillon Brooks - Out (Ankle), Brandon Clarke - Questionable (Eye), Yves Pons - Out (Thigh), John Konchar - Out (Ankle),
What to watch for:
- The Re-Reemergence of Lonnie Walker - Just when I think I’m finally out of Lonnie Walker IV, he goes and pulls me right back in! If there’s a single word one could use to summarize Walker’s career thus far, ‘inconsistent’ would unquestionably be it. We’ve seen incredible highs from Lonnie, only to immediately experience the polar opposite within the span of a single game. It has to be noted though, that Lonnie is currently on his headiest streak of the season, scoring 17 points or more in each of the last five games while shooting a scorching 52% from the field, and 41% from long-distance. With Derrick White now off in Boston, the Spurs have needed Lonnie to step up, and he’s done so thus far. If he can manage to keep this up for most of the rest of the season, we might see him in Silver and Black for the foreseeable future.
- Another Gear for Keldon Johnson - Another player who appears to making a leap in the wake of the Derrick White trade is Mr. Keldon ‘Downtown’ Johnson. Averaging around 15 points a night prior to White’s exit, Keldon is averaging 20 points-per-game over the last ten contests, including a career-high 32 against the Washington Wizards. With his beyond-the-arc competence no longer in question, Johnson has become a thorn in the side of the teams who’ve normally crowded the paint against him, and as result has been able to begin taking advantage of that confusion on the defense’s part. He’s still not the distributor he’ll need to become to register as an unholy terror, but with the gradual improvement that been displayed over the past several season, I wouldn’t put it beyond him and San Antonio’s coaching staff to find a way to unlock yet another level from one of the Spurs’ biggest recent draft steals. Either way, he appears to working his way into the realm of must-see TV.
Professor Pittsley’s Primer:
“The Grizzlies are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Along with the 3rd best offensive rating this season, it becomes apparent very quickly that Memphis leads the league in transition scoring and offensive put backs. Leading this attack of chaos is Ja Morant. The plot below displays offensive and defensive ratings for the advanced metric LEBRON. It’s of particular interest to note that although the lead guards of both teams played in the all star game, it’s actually the big men Steven Adams and Jakob Poeltl (yes, the name from the online word game) who exceed the 75th percentile for both offense and defense.”
For the Grizzlies’ fans’ perspective, visit Grizzly Bear Blues.
PtR’s Game thread 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.