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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Charlotte Hornets

San Antonio looks to rebound without Victor Wembanyama

Charlotte Hornets v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images

After dropping three straight games to the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, the San Antonio Spurs continue their road trip against a struggling opponent. The Charlotte Hornets has won just one out of their last seventeen games. When they visited the Frost Bank Center on January 12, they were blown out by the Spurs in a 135-99 victory for San Antonio.

A large reason for that win was the stellar play of Victor Wembanyama. With his minutes restriction still in effect, the rookie will sit out this contest with the Hornets in order to play his former teammate, Bilal Coulibaly of the Washington Wizards, on Saturday night. San Antonio put a beating on Charlotte last week, but has struggled without their best player. Friday night will be a chance for the rest of the roster to step up without Wembanyama.

San Antonio Spurs (7-33) at Charlotte Hornets (8-30)

January 19, 2024 | 6 PM CT

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Charles Bassey – Out (left knee,) Sidy Cissoko – Out (G League,) Zach Collins – Questionable (right ankle,) David Duke Jr. – Out (G League,) Victor Wembanyama – Out (rest,) Dominick Barlow – Questionable (G League)

Hornets Injuries: Amari Bailey – Out (G League,) Gordon Hayward – Out (left calf, Bryce McGowens – Questionable (left hip,) Brandon Miller – Questionable (low back,) Nick Richards – Questionable (right ankle,) Mark Williams – Out (low back)

What to watch for

An aggressive Devin Vassell

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters after the Boston game that he wants to see Devin Vassell start games as an aggressor. He wants to see him kick-start his game with defense and downhill drives, rather than establishing rhythm with jump shots. Vassell has drifted in and out of being an aggressive scorer this season. Against Boston he was getting to the rack, rather than settling for threes. In the last matchup with the Hornets, Vassell didn’t make much of an impact with the ball in his hands, scoring 12 points on 4-10 shooting.

These Wemby-less nights are the perfect opportunity for the wing to be assertive early. A heavy dose of pick and rolls, off-ball cuts and aggressive play in transition should set him up for success later in the game. Without the Spurs go-to guy, Vassell can step in as an offensive creator.

Containing LaMelo Ball

The Hornets struggled mightily to score the ball in San Antonio last week. They shot 36% from the field, 29.4% from three and turned the ball over 20 times in the loss. There was one lone bright spot – LaMelo Ball. The youngest Ball brother has 28 points and got to the free throw line 16 times. The Hornets offense runs through the hands of their point guard, who has been effective since returning from injury. The Hornets don’t have many playmakers, so holding Ball in check will be key to slowing down Charlotte once again.

The return of Zach Collins?

It’s been three weeks since Zach Collins rolled his ankle against the Portland Trail Blazers. Friday’s game may be the first time we see the center suit up since his injury. Collins is listed as questionable for the Charlotte game, but with Wembanyama out, and a thin big man rotation, the Spurs could use the extra bodies. The Hornets could be a good game to work him back into the lineup, as they lack a dominant presence inside with Mark Williams out with a back injury.