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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

Can the Silver and Black rebound from a blowout on the second leg of a back-to-back?

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The shorthanded San Antonio Spurs extended their losing streak to three games as they couldn’t keep up with the Miami Heat on the first night of a back-to-back. A depleted depth chart left an ensemble of third-stringers and spot-starters helpless to fend off Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo, but reinforcements are on their way.

The Silver and Black now look to close their three-game homestand with a much-needed dub before heading out for their annual Rodeo Road Trip, and the Houston Rockets present a favorable matchup. While head coach Gregg Popovich and company can’t afford to overlook any opponent, the return of Dejounte Murray could be huge as they host their I-10 rival.

San Antonio Spurs (19-34) vs. Houston Rockets (15-36)

February 4, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Keita Bates-Diop (Out — Competition Reconditioning), Zach Collins (Out — Competition Reconditioning), Jock Landale (Out — Concussion Protocols), Jakob Poeltl (Out — Concussion Protocols), Doug McDermott (Questionable — Ankle), Dejounte Murray (Questionable — Wrist)

Rockets Injuries: John Wall (Out — Not With Team), Usman Garuba (Out — Wrist)

What To Watch For

  • Jakob Poeltl and Jock Landale landed in concussion protocols after they each took an elbow to the noggin in a recent loss to Golden State. As a result, the Spurs gave small-ball center Thaddeus Young the starting nod on Thursday, which went about as well as you might expect for a guy who suited up in three of San Antonio’s previous 25 games. Though Poeltl and Landale are unlikely to rejoin the team anytime soon, head coach Gregg Popovich delivered some encouraging news when he told local media Zach Collins might make his season debut versus the Rockets on Friday. After multiple surgeries to repair a stress fracture in his left ankle kept him away from the hardwood for nearly two seasons, the 24-year-old big man has spent the last couple of weeks getting back into playing shape with the Austin Spurs. Fans should be cautiously optimistic about what he can contribute in his first go-round in the 2-1-0. With that said, the flashes of defensive switchability and pick-and-pop three-point shooting make it easy to envision him carving out a role as a backup center or a power forward in more traditional lineups. Collins probably won’t start in his first big league action since 2020, but getting minutes against the worst squad in the Western Conference could be a great way to reacclimate him to the speed of NBA competition.
  • The NBA nominated Dejounte Murray for Western Conference Player of the Month for the first time this season after the sixth-year floor general averaged 22.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 9.9 assists in January. The 25-year-old guard put together the best stretch of his career, but you can almost definitely point towards San Antonio going 5-12 to kick off the new year as to why he didn’t take home the award. A drought of team success has tarnished his nightly brilliance, and it’s the same reason Spurs fans were disappointed when the NBA on TNT crew didn’t announce Dejounte as a 2022 NBA All-Star reserve. Despite sitting out the Heat matchup with a sprained wrist on Thursday night, Murray will have the opportunity of a lifetime to vent his frustrations on Houston and their last-place defense. The Rockets gave up 32-10-11 to Dejounte in their first meeting with the Spurs, 19-5-10 in round two, and they legitimately have no one on their roster who can slow down the spindly floor general. Draymond Green told Ernie, Shaq, Kenny, and Chuck he hopes Adam Silver will name Dejounte Murray as his injury replacement since he won’t be available until after the All-Star Break. Tonight will be his first chance to build a case over other worthy candidates and sway the league commissioner.
  • Christian Wood has been a problem for San Antonio since he established himself as a genuine rotation player with Detroit Pistons during his fourth season in the NBA. Big men who can catch lobs, space the floor beyond the arc, or protect the rim have consistently got the better of the Spurs, and the 26-year-old center can do each of those things at a high level. Wood has averaged 20.2 points and 11.2 rebounds on 54.8% shooting from the field in just under 29.5 minutes per game across his last six meetings with the Silver and Black. That blend of scoring, rebounding, and efficiency would make for a convincing argument as an All-Star if he only ever played the Spurs. Considering Jakob Poeltl and Jock Landale are in concussion protocols at the moment, the sixth-year stretch-five could very well look like a Hall of Famer on Friday when he faced San Antonio’s depleted frontcourt. Thaddeus Young, Juancho Hernangomez, Drew Eubanks, Devontae Cacok, and Zach Collins (maybe) have a tough assignment on their hands, but keeping Wood under wraps is essential to ending their three-game homestand on a positive note.

For the Rockets fans’ perspective, visit The Dream Shake.

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.