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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

Spurs injury report grows as they enter the second game of the In Season Tournament

San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

After five-straight losses, things aren’t getting any easier for the San Antonio Spurs. Not only will they square off with one of the best young teams in the NBA, but their injury report is crowded with key contributors. Tre Jones, Jeremy Sochan and Keldon Johnson all have injury designations heading into Tuesday’s matchup.

The NBA world will be watching two “unicorns” clash under the bright lights (and above the bright court) of the In Season Tournament. Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren are two of the names mentioned most frequently in far too early Rookie of the Year conversations. Both have been playing extremely well to start the season, and will have their first shot at playing each other since the preseason. Regardless of the Spurs record, this is a must-watch matchup for basketball fans who want to see two of the most exciting young players in the sport.

San Antonio Spurs (3-7) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-4)

November 14, 2023 | 6:30 P.M. CT

Watch: TNT | Listen: WOAI/KXTN

Spurs injuries: Charle Bediako – Out (G League,) Sidy Cissoko – Out (G League,) Sir’Jabari Rice – Out (G League,) Keldon Johnson – Out (right knee soreness,) Tre Jones – Out (right hamstring tightness,) Jeremy Sochan – Questionable (right adductor tightness,) Blake Wesley – Out (G League)

Thunder injuries: Ousmane Dieng – Out (G League,) Keyontae Johnson – Out (G League)

What to watch for

Wembanyama vs. Holmgren

This is what everyone is tuning in to watch. Two skinny, versatile bigs going at it. Although, it’s unlikely the two actually guard each other. In the preseason, Wembanyama guarded Jalen Williams, while Holmgren was matched up with Zach Collins. The Spurs have run out Wemby at the five a few times at the end of close games. There is a chance we see this matchup in crunch time.

The two bigs are leading all rookies in scoring. Wembanyama is averaging 19.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. Holmgren is averaging 16.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Holmgren’s efficiency numbers have been impressive for a rookie. He’s shooting 54.9% from the field, 50% from three and 89.5% from the line. Wemby is shooting 45/30/77 splits in his first 10 games.

Another shootout

The Spurs have not been great defensively. They ratcheted it up in their last two games against Minnesota and Miami, but are still allowing 124.2 points per game, the most in the NBA. The Thunder’s defense has not been top-class either. They are 19th in the NBA in points allowed, giving up 114.1 a game. With two porous defenses, we could be on our way to another shootout.

The Thunder offense has been clicking in their first 10 games. They are 8th in the NBA in points scored (115.9 a game.) They are shooting the lights out from three, hitting 37.5% of their attempts. However, they don’t take a lot of them, shooting just 30.9 a game. San Antonio is allowing teams to shoot a league-high 40.5% from three. They’ll once again need to lock down the perimeter, or score a lot of points if they want to stay in the game.

Playmaking sources

The Spurs have faced some playmaking problems to start the season. Sochan is learning the point guard position and the rest of the roster is adapting to Wembanyama. To make matters worse, most of their primary playmakers are on the injury report for Tuesday’s game. Sochan, Jones and Johnson are all questionable. That leaves Devin Vassell, Malaki Branham and Cedi Osman as the team’s most reliable ball-handlers who are sure to play.

It would be a surprise to see all three of the questionable players sit out. Especially with Blake Wesley joining the G League team. If they do, expect to see the ball in Collins’ hands operating out of the high and low post. Branham will likely play a big chunk of point guard minutes, with Devonte’ Graham potentially getting some run. With both point guards potentially missing time, this would be a great chance to run some high-low action with Collins and Wembanyama, against a Thunder team that likes to play small.