The Spurs will once again pack their bags for a road trip, this time heading for the west coast. Their first contest will come against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who are winners of six in their last ten games. The Warriors are fighting for home court advantage in the playoffs, while San Antonio is just looking to end the season on a positive note.
The Spurs are coming off of a tight 128-117 loss to the Utah Jazz in the team’s last game in San Antonio this season. Without Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan the Silver and Black hung around with the Jazz, but could not overcome a 19-6 run early in the 4th quarter, leading to the loss. Now they will start their road trip with an almost completely different roster of available players. So it goes.
San Antonio is 0-2 against Golden State this year. In their last game, the Warriors defeated the Spurs 144-113. Golden State brought a balanced offensive attack that saw all but two players finish with double digit points. Tre Jones led the Spurs in the loss, scoring 21 points on 7-11 shooting, which included going 2-2 from 3, while adding in 5 assists.
Once again the Spurs will have to navigate ever shifting lineups against a tough opponent. San Antonio has given up over 110 points in 9 of their last 10 games, while Golden State averages 118 a game, second highest in the NBA. The Spurs will need to keep up with the Warriors scoring output if they want to have a chance on the road.
San Antonio Spurs (19-57) vs. Golden State Warriors (40-37)
March 31, 2023 | 9 p.m. CT
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI/KXTN
Spurs injuries: Khem Birch – Out (knee), Charles Bassey – Out (knee), Zach Collins – Out (foot), Romeo Langford – Questionable (abductor), Doug McDermott – Probable (elbow), Jeremy Sochan – Out (knee), Devin Vassell – Questionable (knee)
Warriors injuries: Andre Iguodala – Out (wrist), Ryan Rollins – Out (foot), Andrew Wiggins – Out (personal reasons)
What to watch for
How do they survive without Zach Collins?
With Charles Bassey out for the season, the Spurs have relied on Collins to carry a heavy load in the front court. When he sits, they rely on undersized bigs like Sandro Mamukelashvili and Dominick Barlow to log minutes at the 5, and the veteran Gorgui Dieng to spot minutes as needed. With Collins sitting once again, they will need this depleted big man rotation to step up.
The Warriors are the 11th best rebounding team in the league, averaging 44 boards a game. They have good to great bigs in Kevon Looney and Draymond Green, who average 9 and 7 rebounds a game respectively. The Spurs will need to keep them off of the glass to negate a clear on-paper advantage for Golden State. Without Collins they will also be without a steady rim protecting presence inside. We’ve seen teams ruthlessly attack the paint agains the Spurs, and the Warriors have the athletes and playmakers to do it again at a high level. They’ll need Mamu, Barlow and Dieng to play well if they want to keep this one close.
Slowing down the splashers
Three-pointers and the Golden State Warriors are darn-near synonymous at this point. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, they have two of the best shooters of all-time in their starting back court. Oh yeah, then there are flamethrowers like Jordan Poole and Donte DiVincenzo off of their bench. They lead the league in three-point makes, averaging 16.5 a game, shooting 38% from deep.
The Spurs on the other hand give up the best 3-point percentage in the NBA, allowing teams to shoot 39% from range. Recently they’ve seen teams like the Wizards explode from range when they lose shooters in transition, as well as the half court. If the Silver and Black fail to locate shooters, it’s going to be a long, long night. They have to find a way to stop dribble penetration that is leading to easy kick outs for spot up shooters. If they don’t, it might get ugly quick.
Can Malaki Branham keep it up?
One of the more encouraging parts of a discouraging stretch has been Branham building back to the level of play he showed in February. Over the last 3-games he’s averaging 17 points a game, and looking much more comfortable doing it. He’s getting to the basket more, using his length and change of speed to create angles for his pretty floater. He’s still not shooting the ball well from deep, but has forgone that shot for better looks in the mid-range and at the rim.
With Keldon Johnson returning, and Devin Vassell potentially suiting up, there may be less of these shots to go around for Malaki. It would be disappointing to see him go back to settling for spot up jumpers and contested deep shots, which he had been doing with those two healthy and in the lineup. Even with other ball-dominant players in the lineup, it would benefit the rookie guard to continue his aggressive play. With a vulnerable perimeter defense in Golden State (19th in defensive rating), Branham has a chance to continue his stellar play on the road.