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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

It may be time to get a look at the full rotation as preseason nears it’s end.

Houston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Even without Victor Wembanyama, the San Antonio Spurs looked good through three quarters in a 99-89 loss to the Houston Rockets. Just two days later, the Spurs will have another chance at defeating their in-state rivals at the Frost Bank Center. This time, with their first-overall-pick on the floor.

After the loss on Monday night, Gregg Popovich told reporters that Wembanyama, Devin Vassell and Tre Jones will all play on Wednesday against Houston. He also said that the goal for the final two preseason games is to get close to the regular season rotation. For those that have been pontificating on the Spurs starting five and rotations through the first three preseason games, Wednesday night may be the first chance at seeing if they were right.

San Antonio will look to build upon Monday’s impressive defensive performance where they blocked 9 shots and allowed just 34 points in the paint. Zach Collins will likely fall back into a supporting role, but proved that Houston is vulnerable inside with his 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists on Monday. Collins, Wembanyama and company will look to put together four strong quarters and bounce back in their rematch against the Rockets.

San Antonio Spurs (1-2) vs. Houston Rockets (3-0)

October 18, 2023 | 7 P.M. CT

Watch: CW35 | Listen: WOAI/KXTN

Spurs injuries: None

Rockets injuries: None

What to watch for

What does the rotation look like?

If this game is treated more like a precursor to the regular season, what will the rotation look like? We’ve seen a few iterations of the Spurs starting lineup through three games.

The more “traditional” Jones, Vassell, Cedi Osman, Wembanyama and Collins lineup looked the most dynamic offensively while working out some of the kinks defensively.

The Jeremy Sochan led “point guard by committee” lineups were a bit clunkier offensively, but were strong defensively, and created some exciting possibilities with its versatility.

If the whole roster is playing, will Popovich go with Jones as the starting lead guard and slide Sochan back into a forward position? Or will Jones remain on the bench and the Spurs lean more on a wing-heavy lineups? How will Osman, who has started every preseason game, factor into the equation?

There are plenty of things to workout in the final two preseason games. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles the rotations as they head towards their first regular season game in just a week.

Wembanyama versus Houston

Wemby may have unintentionally added more fuel to the Spurs-Rockets rivalry on draft lottery night. We’ve all seen the reactions from Houston fans when they got the fourth pick in the draft, and San Antonio got the first. Wembanyama’s reaction also ruffled some feathers. He pumped his fist in excitement when Houston was off the board as a potential destination.

Jabari Smith Jr. “took note” of this on twitter. This young and hungry Rockets team is likely going to come right at Wembanyama. On Monday they showed that they want to play with physicality, led by veterans Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. Wembanyama hasn’t really been bullied yet, but he could see some increased physicality from a motivated Rockets squad.

Continued defensive success

The Spurs have looked greatly improved on the defensive end this preseason. Wembanyama is changing the way opposing offenses can attack the paint. Their young wings look vastly improved at the point of attack and in their off-ball rotations. Overall intensity on that end has skyrocketed since last year’s historically bad performance. They’ve held teams to under 105 points twice this preseason. It seems that the defensive emphasis voiced by Popovich is paying off.

Houston isn’t necessarily an offensive juggernaut, but they have legitimate NBA scorers in VanVleet and Jalen Green. If the Spurs do indeed run out a lineup that mirrors what they will use in the regular season, it’s worth watching if they continue to perform defensively.