Spurs face Suns in Mexico City: Preview, prediction, gameday bets
By Ethan Farina
The San Antonio Spurs will play the Phoenix Suns for the first time this season when the two teams meet in Mexico City tonight.
After getting embarrassed by the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Thursday night, the San Antonio Spurs are heading back on the road. Tonight’s game is the last of a series that will be played in Mexico City. A unique game in what should be a fairly friendly arena should make tonight’s matchup interesting.
Even though the Spurs had nearly a week off to prepare for their game against the Cavs they were still dominated by a team that had just gotten torched by James Harden and the Rockets the night before. San Antonio has struggled to string together wins this year and Thursday’s loss was just the latest example of how inconsistent this team can be.
San Antonio has been one of the better offensive teams for stretches during the season but they have a tendency to come out flat. Their offense relies heavily on the mid-range skills of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge and, while that’s worked out some of the time, it can also be the Spurs own destruction if their shooters are not hitting from outside.
Last year the outside shooting wasn’t as big of an issue because even though San Antonio was still attempting the fewest three-point shots in the league they were the most accurate team in the NBA from behind the arc. That’s a sharp contrast to this season where the Spurs are 19th in the league in three-point percentage.
When guys like Rudy Gay and Bryn Forbes arent connecting from deep this team struggles to win. Thankfully the Phoenix Suns’ weakness on defense play right into the Spurs hands. Phoenix is letting opponents hit on 36 percent of their attempts in the league, a mark that puts them 19th in the NBA in that category. Letting it fly early and often will be a key to victory in a game that’s sure to be a high scoring affair.
Phoenix will look to score fast, they average 115 points per game this year. They made some moves in the off-season that have really elevated their offense. The most important of these was their signing of Ricky Rubio to give Devin Booker the pass-first running mate he needed.
The two post a +7.8 net rating when they share the floor together. Rubio is a wizard with the ball in his hands and does an excellent job of running the floor in transition and taking playmaking responsibilities away from Booker.
It was never an issue of ability for Booker, he was just being asked to do too much for the Suns in years past. It’s hard for a player that young, on a team that bad, to be responsible for initiating the offense or getting a bucket on nearly every possession. Bringing Rubio in has allowed Booker to focus on what makes him unique.
He can score from every level and has been able to focus on that more now that he’s got some help on offense. His usage and assist rates have dropped this year but his true shooting percentage has increased. This just goes to show what can happen when Booker isn’t asked to be the offensive generator night after night.
The matchup to watch will be between Booker and whomever Gregg Popovich tasks with guarding him. It will likely start out as Bryn Forbes but it would be nice to see Pop let Lonnie Walker take large stretches of the game on Booker. Walker performed well on the defensive end against James Harden, Booker would be another great test for the young guy.
Gameday bets and prediction
Spread: San Antonio Spurs +2
All betting information courtesy of The Action Network.
The Spurs should be able to turn things around and get a win tonight. Even though they’re playing in what is technically a road game you can be sure that there will be a lot of silver and black in the crowd. The San Antonio Spurs have a unique connection to Mexico and the Hispanic community. Hopefully, that connection results in a packed house of Spurs fans cheering the squad on to victory.
It’s hard to call any game at this stage of the season a “must-win” but San Antonio desperately needs to get back on the right side of things after that loss to the Cavs. With upcoming games against the Rockets, Nets, and Clippers it could be their last chance in a while to put a W on their record.