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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat

Making up the postponed Dec. 29 game that the Spurs probably wish had happened then.

NBA: Preseason-Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs are coming to the end of one of their toughest stretches of the season, going up against the top five teams in the league in five games (at least when it started). So far they’ve gone 1-3, with a win over the Bulls and close losses to the Grizzlies, Suns and Warriors. However, the latter was especially disappointing considering they lost a 17-point lead to a Golden State squad that was missing its top six players.

The Spurs will be looking to get the bad taste of that loss out of their mouths tonight against a Miami Heat team that had briefly risen up to first in the East but has since gone 5-5, moving them back down to third. This game was originally supposed to take place on December 29 but was postponed after an injury/COVID-depleted Heat team couldn’t field enough players. (The league was no desperate to make that game happen they even tried to get some Austin Spurs to come play for them.) Hopefully the reschedule doesn’t come back to bite the Spurs since that game would have been during a stretch in which they were playing their best basketball of the season (before COVID struck in January), and they sure aren’t right now.

(Update: Due to inclement weather in the area, tipoff has been moved to 6:00 PM CT.)

San Antonio Spurs (19-33) vs. Miami Heat (32-20)

February 3, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: CW35 | Listen: 1200 AM (WOAI)

Spurs Injuries: Dejounte Murray (Questionable — wrist), Doug McDermott (Questionable — ankle); Jakob Poeltl (Out — concussion protocol), Jock Landale (Out — concussion protocol), Keita Bates-Diop (Out — reconditioning), Zach Collins (Out — reconditioning)

Heat Injuries: Kyle Lowrey (Day-to-day — personal); Victor Oladipo (Out — knee); Markieff Morris (Out — back); KZ Okpala (Out — wrist); Omer Yurtzeven (Out — Health and Safety Protocols)

What to Watch for

  • San Antonio, we have a size problem: Welp, that’s not an injury report anyone wanted to see. Just when the Spurs were basically whole again, the injury bug strikes again. Both Poeltl and Landale took blows to the head in Tuesday’s physical game against the Warriors and missed the second half with concussions. It’s Jock’s second concussion of the season, and Gregg Popovich said after the game that Poeltl was experiencing blurry vision. Unfortunately, the leaves just Drew Eubanks as the only true center available, and Thaddeus Young and Juancho Hernangomez as the only other players taller than 6’7”. Pop has avoided playing Young and even went centerless for the entirety of the fourth quarter against the Warriors, but will he truly play mircoball for almost an entire game, or even half? He may have no choice but to give one or both of those guys some extended minutes in this one, especially against the lengthy Heat.
  • Fourth quarter woes: Execution in the fourth quarter continues to be one of the Spurs’ biggest weaknesses this season. They held second-half double-digit leads in both of their last two games, only to get outscored 36-19 by the Suns and 35-16 by the Warriors in the fourth quarters, and it’s not just the offense that’s going cold. Defensive execution falls apart, communication ceases, and players appear lost on that end. Excuses can be made for the two most recent fourth quarter collapses — it was only a matter of time before Devin Booker and Chris Paul turned on the jets, and the Spurs were missing Poeltl to anchor the defense against Golden State — but the reality is this has been an issue all season regardless of the opponent or who’s available. Whatever the cause — be it mental, a conditioning issue, the lack of reliable star to lean on, or whatever — it has to be addressed if this squad wants to start winning on a consistent basis.
  • Team USA reunion: When he was cut from Team USA by Pop for the 2019 World Cup, Bam Adebayo took it personally and vowed to get better, and has he ever. The very next season he became a fulltime starter for the Heat, bumped his scoring average up from 8.9 to 15.9 points per game, and was named an All-Star. In the two seasons since he is averaging over 18 points per game, and last summer his dream of making Team USA finally came true as he helped his home country win the gold medal. Playing in front of Pop often brings out the best in him, and he’s coming off a possible breakout game against Toronto, where he scored 32 points on 13-17 shooting in his ninth game back after missing extended time with a thumb injury. Not to mention, he won’t have much resistance down low with the Spurs’ depleted state of centers.

For the Heat fans’ perspective, visit Hot Hot Hoops.

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.