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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Charlotte Hornets

Can the Silver and Black bounce back after a deflating loss in their return from the Rodeo Road Trip?

Charlotte Hornets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs lost another nail-biter in their first game back from the Rodeo Road Trip as they fell short of completing a comeback against the Sacramento Kings. Although the good guys gave up some ground to a fellow Western Conference play-in tournament contender, they will have a chance to regain a bit of cushion in the standings on Saturday night.

The Silver and Black will now look to stop their three-game losing streak as they face a slumping Charlotte Hornets team missing All-Star forward Gordon Hayward. Despite entering this contest shorthanded, head coach James Borrego is familiar with San Antonio’s system as a two-time Gregg Popovich assistant. Having budding star LaMelo Ball doesn’t hurt either.

San Antonio Spurs (24-39) at Charlotte Hornets (31-33)

March 5, 2022 | 6:00 PM CT

Watch: CW35 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

DraftKings Odds: Spurs +4, O/U 219.5

Spurs Injuries: Devontae Cacok (Out — On Assignment), Devin Vassell (Questionable — Adductor), Lonnie Walker IV (Questionable — Back)

Hornets Injuries: Gordon Hayward (Out — Ankle), James Bouknight (Out — Neck), Jalen McDaniels (Game Time Decision — Ankle)

What To Watch For

  • San Antonio and Charlotte rank top-ten in points per game, bottom-five in points allowed, top-four in pace in the league, which means fans will likely be in for an abundance of offensive fireworks on Saturday night. Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV have averaged a combined 46.5 points since February 12th, and there’s a legitimate possibility they could surpass that number early into the contest. On the other hand, it feels like every guard has detonated on the Silver and Black over the last month, with Ja Morant (52), CJ McCollum (36), Darius Garland (27), and Tyler Herro (27) hosting point parties at their expense. The Hornets also own a dynamic backcourt duo in All-Star LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, and the Spurs must focus up and play a bit of defense if they don’t want them to have a field day at the Spectrum Center The good guys can’t afford to ignore Miles Bridges, Montrezl Harrell, or Kelly Oubre Jr. either, with each player posing a unique threat to San Antonio’s undersized frontline.
  • The head-to-head matchup between Dejounte Murray and LaMelo Ball is bound to be a striking stylistic juxtaposition. Whereas Dejounte takes care of the basketball, thrives off simple reads, and earns a living off midrange jumpers, LaMelo percolates with creativity as a passer, feels comfortable taking risks, and loves pulling up from beyond the arc. Both All-Star point guards are nightly triple-double threats, but they are an amusing reminder that floor generals are not one-size-fits-all. Their dissimilarities continue on the other end of the floor as well. Although Murray and Ball rank first and tenth in steals per game in the NBA this season, the former is an All-Defensive Team candidate who carefully picks his spots while the latter is a rash gambler. Their avenue towards stardom couldn’t be more different either. Dejounte gradually enhanced his game each year after slipping to the end of the first round and suffering a devastating ACL injury. LaMelo was an internet sensation before he left high school, the headliner of the Next-Stars program in the NBL at 18-years-old, and the third overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft. Perhaps the coolest part is their stories converged at the 2022 All-Star Game as Ball tossed a between-the-legs alley-oop to Dejounte in transition. How can you not be itching for this pair to go toe-to-toe?
  • The Lonnie Walker IV breakout has been one of the best things to come out of the Rodeo Road Trip in the last couple of seasons. The fourth-year guard averaged 20.3 points on 51.6% shooting over the final six games of San Antonio’s extended excursion away from the 2-1-0, and it would have been reasonable if you were skeptical that it wouldn’t last once the Spurs returned home. But the 23-year-old resumed right where he left off as he torched the Sacramento Kings for a season-high 30 points on Thursday. The former 18th overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft will have another shot to keep things rolling as the Silver and Black face off with Charlotte and their swiss-cheese defense at the Spectrum Center. The Hornets don’t have a rim protector on their roster, and none of their guards are fast enough to stay in front of Lonnie. Though all good things must come to an end, that night probably won’t come for Walker when there’s a possibility Isaiah Thomas might defend him for multiple possessions.

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