The highs of the San Antonio Spurs first two games has been outweighed by the lows of their 123-83 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. Hardly anything went right on either end of the floor against a very good veteran squad. Luckily there are still 79 games to be played this season, and plenty of time to figure it out. The Silver and Black will have their first chance to bounce back against the Phoenix Suns on Halloween.
The Suns are facing some spooky injuries to their squad, as Bradley Beal and Devin Booker are both likely to miss this game. Kevin Durant will be the lone boogeyman awaiting the Spurs in Phoenix. San Antonio may see a familiar face in Keita Bates-Diop, who has been left out of the Suns rotation, but could fill a spot with two start hurt. Facing a hampered roster, the Spurs will look to survive the night, and bounce back with a road win.
San Antonio Spurs (1-2) vs. Phoenix Suns (2-1)
October 31, 2023 | 9:00 P.M. CT
Watch: TNT | Listen: WOAI/KXTN
Spurs injuries: Charles Bediako – Out (G League assignment,) Sidy Cissoko – Out (G League assignment,) Sir’Jabari Rice – Out (G League assignment)
Suns injuries: Bradley Beal – Out (low back,) Devin Booker – Doubtful (left ankle,) Damion Lee – Out (right knee)
What to watch for
Kevin Durant vs. Victor Wembanyama
Due to their skeleton-like appearances (I am not done with the halloween references just yet,) Wembanyama has drawn some comparisons to Durant. It’s not just the body type, but also the fluidity in motion for someone of their size. So far Jeremy Sochan has gotten the toughest defensive matchup, with Wemby guarding someone he can help off in the paint. But if there was anyone designed in Frankenstein’s lab to guard Durant, it’s the Spurs first-overall pick.
After Monday’s game, Wembanyama spoke about the need to keep his edge against his idols. This will be a major test for Wemby to show up against one of the sports all-time greats.
Point Sochan and turnovers
Monday’s game was an offensive nightmare for San Antonio. They scored just 83 points on 37.5% shooting from the field and turned it over 25 times. Fans and media alike have quickly turned to the Spurs “tall-ball” lineup with Sochan at point guard as a reason for their offensive woes. He’s looked uncomfortable in his new role, and the offensive numbers (albeit a minuscule sample) for the “tall-ball” linuep have not been good.
Sochan had a rough game against the Clippers, putting up 0 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 turnovers in his 22 minutes. Almost everyone on the Spurs roster had a bad game, and all of them turned it over too much. Tre Jones, who many wish to see start in Sochan’s place, also turned the ball over 4 times.
It’s a new day for Sochan, Jones and the Spurs. A new opportunity to develop in their new roles. It seems that Gregg Popovich wants to see where this experiment with Sochan at the point can go. That means there might be some bad games along the way. Wednesday will give us another data point to see how this lineup works against one of the better teams in the league.
One of the biggest storylines from the preseason was the emphasis on improving defensively. From individual players like Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson, to the coaching staff – the main message was they needed to improve the defense. Through three games, it has not been much better.
The Spurs have given up 120+ points in three straight contests, and have a defensive rating of 115.3 (24th in the NBA.) There are still moments when miscommunication and botched rotations create open shots for opposing offenses. Phoenix typically poses an offensive challenge with its three-headed monster. With just Durant playing, they will be easier to guard. This is a chance for San Antonio to show some of the development they talked about in the preseason.