Well, it’s a new year and the San Antonio Spurs are on another losing streak.
After an absolutely disastrous November in the which the Silver and Black went 1-14, the Spurs have looked much more competitive, scratching out a 6-8 record the following month.
The trend continued to open up the year as the Spurs gave a flame-throwing Luke Doncic everything they had, and then some, but the Mavericks managed to squeak their way out of the AT&T Center with a win, and the exhausted young Spurs were promptly shellacked by a resurgent Nets team that seems to have found their stride.
Next up is a Knicks team looking to avenge a narrow loss to the Spurs before their recent win streak, and even the season series up. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs have largely owned the Knicks since the late 90’s, but have struggled with them more since the arrival of Tom Thibodeau, tallying their first three game losing streak against the Knickerbockers since 2001, prior to this last victory.
New York definitely presents a challenge for the Spurs, sporting top 10 offensive and defensive ratings. However the Knicks are also a below average passing team (23rd in assist percentage, 26th in assist ratio, and 16th in assist-to-turnover ratio), which has allowed the green-ish Spurs to stick with the Knicks a little better on the defensive end that they might against a team with better ball-movement.
The real challenge for the Spurs in this contest will be keeping the Knicks off the glass on the defensive end (the Knicks rank 1st in 2nd chance points), and keeping them from getting to the charity stripe, where the Knicks rank 7th in their percentage of points scored.
The Spurs on the other hand will need to press their slight advantages in shooting, while limiting their turnover issues (3rd worst in total turnovers) as much as possible.
As this is the last match-up for these teams in the regular season, I wouldn’t bet on a runaway in either direction, but if the Spurs get even a little bit sloppy against a Thibodeau defense, all bets are off.
January 4th, 2023 | 6:30 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest| Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Devin Vassell - Questionable (Knee), Keita-Bates Diop - Out (Illness)
Knicks Injuries: R.J. Barrett - Out (Finger), Derrick Rose - Questionable (Knee), Obi Toppin - Doubtful (Leg)
What to watch for:
Jeremy Sochan vs. Julius Randle: It’s obviously not the only important match-up of the night, but Randle was a proverbial wrecking ball against San Antonio in their last match-up, with a 41/11/7 stat-line, and the Spurs really only have one player to throw against the uniquely gifted power-forward. The Spurs will need to dominate in the front-court from start-to-finish, but a lot of that will likely come down to how Sochan is able to handle this assignment. Sochan has already irritated a whole host of NBA stars this season. Count on him adding Randle to this list, given the opportunity. Randle is only averaging 14/9/4 against the Spurs for his career, in spite of his recent outburst, but San Antonio will need to be able to count on more than statistical trends to win this one.
For the Knicks’ fans’ perspective, visit Posting and Toasting.
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.