All the hype and spectacle fell flat in the San Antonio Spurs regular season debut, as they were defeated by the Dallas Mavericks. Victor Wembanyama battled foul trouble in his debut, yet still managed to post 15 points and 5 rebounds in just 23 minutes of play. He will get another shot to play a full minute-load against the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Houston is coming off a 116-86 loss to the Orlando Magic in their opening season debut. When the Spurs faced the Rockets in the preseason, they handled them in a 117-103 win. Things got chippy between Jeremy Sochan, Zach Collins, Amen Thomposn and Dillon Brooks in their last meeting. This is a rivalry that is gaining steam as both teams progress.
San Antonio Spurs (0-1) vs. Houston Rockets (0-1)
October 27, 2023 | 7:00 P.M. CT
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI/KXTN
Spurs injuries: Devonte’ Graham – Out (suspension)
Rockets injuries: Tari Eason – Out (left lower leg,) Jock Landale – Out (concussion protocol,) Victor Oladipo – Out (left patellar tendon)
What to watch for
Defending Wembanyama with physicality
We saw the blueprint both in the Rockets matchup in the preseason, and the Spurs opening game against Dallas. Teams are going to try to get physical with Wembanyama to either get him out of the paint, or force him to make mistakes. Grant Williams was able to push Wemby out and draw a few fouls on him. Undoubtably the Rockets will look to do something similar.
Last time Jabari Smith Jr. matched up on Wembanyama. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if he sees a bit of that matchup mixed in with Brooks and other physical defenders like Thompson. It will be interesting to see how Gregg Popovich and the Spurs staff put Wembanyama in a position to succeed through the physical play.
Point guard rotations
The Rockets are similar to the Mavericks in the way they start two ball-dominant guards. Jalen Green and Fred VanVleet are the Kirkland-brand Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic. San Antonio did a decent job holding them with their bigger lineups. Devin Vassell did an admirable job guarding Irving, and Sochan was the most effective at slowing down Docnic. Their “tall-ball” lineup should be similarly effective against Houston.
Offensively there was a bit of clunkiness without a downhill driver on the floor. When Tre Jones checks into the game, the Spurs see more attempts at the rim and a healthier dose of pick and roll. San Antonio struggled to get Wembanyama the ball in the paint, yet their most willing passer, Jones, only played 3 minutes with him. It would be interesting to see how effective that duo can be with more playing time. Jones’ role on the team is the rotation quirk to watch as the season progresses.
The Mavericks are one of the strongest offensive teams in the NBA. They have two dynamic scorers and slew of shooters and a lob threat to surround them with. They are going to score in the 120s consistently. Houston on the other hand has not yet proven to be an elite offense, as they didn’t even score 90 in their first matchup. This will be a great chance for San Antonio to show some of the defensive ability they flashed in the preseason. A full game from Wembanyama will likely do wonders for their defensive play.