Here’s what to watch for in the San Antonio Spurs final regular-season game of the 2019-20 season
Well, we’re finally here. After what’s felt like, and actually been, the longest regular-season ever, the San Antonio Spurs will play their final regular-season tonight against the Utah Jazz, putting a bow on the 2019-20 regular season.
Tonight’s game is massively important. If the Spurs win they’ll do be doing all they can to set themselves up for a spot in the play-in series to decide who will go on to the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Thankfully, they’re playing a team they’re already very familiar with.
San Antonio has already beaten the Utah Jazz three times this season and their matchup tonight will give the Spurs a chance to go a perfect 4-0 on the season.
The Spurs benefitted from playing an injury-depleted lineup during the first matchup between these two teams in the bubble and will have a similar situation tonight. Utah will be playing without Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, and Emmanuel Mudiay in tonight’s game.
All of this sets up a great chance for San Antonio to sneak into the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive season. The other teams ahead of them will have to stumble for that to happen, but you can be sure the Spurs are going to do everything they can to get themselves into the play-in series.
Here’s what to watch for as the San Antonio Spurs take the floor in their final regular-season game.
Next: Can Keldon keep it going?
Can Keldon Johnson keep rolling for the San Antonio Spurs?
Big Body Johnson followed up two back to back career-high performances against the 76ers and Nuggets with a wildly impressive game against the Houston Rockets. He was a huge factor in the Spurs must-win game and should be coming into this season finale with a ton of confidence. But can he keep it going?
Johnson’s first game against the Jazz doesn’t pop out of the stat sheet but it was a solid overall performance. In tallying 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals, Keldon contributed in every area of the game without overwhelming you. He only took two shots, something that’s sure to change in tonight’s game.
Keldon benefitted from avoiding Royce O’Neale in the first matchup with the Jazz but won’t be quite as lucky tonight. O’Neale isn’t a household name but he’s a solid wing defender who could give Johnson problems if they match up against one another. It’ll be interesting to see how Keldon navigates this one.
Simply put, Keldon is one of the Spurs’ most important players. He brings a combination of physicality and aggressiveness that few on the team are capable of matching. He always seems to pop up in the right spot for clean passes or clean up baskets and has been incredibly reliable from behind the arc since the team arrived in Orlando. How he plays in tonight’s game will go a long way in determining the Spurs’ fate.
Next: Who's guarding Mitchell?
How are the San Antonio Spurs going to counter Donovan Mitchell?
The San Antonio Spurs got lucky in their first bubble matchup with the Utah Jazz and skirted out from having to guard Donovan Mitchell. They won’t be quite as lucky tonight, all indications pointing to Mitchell taking the floor.
Personally, I think Mitchell is one of the most overrated players in the league today. He’s basically Collin Sexton with a better supporting cast. Don’t buy it? Check the numbers.
Still, Mitchell has proven that he’s capable of taking over games single handily and dominating his opponents. With Utah’s spot in the playoffs secured there’s not much for him to play for so San Antonio could run into a more passive version of Mitchell then they’ve seen in the past but they can’t bank on that.
So who’s guarding him? Thankfully, the Spurs have multiple players who are more than up to the task. Any one of Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, or Keldon Johnson would do a fine job of guarding Mitchell.
No matter who ends up tasked with shutting down Utah’s superstar they better come prepared. Their playoff hopes quite literally depend on it.
Next: DeRozan's final game?
Could this be the last we see of DeMar DeRozan in a San Antonio Spurs uniform?
We’ve been very forward in our praise of Derrick White and Keldon Johnson but DeMar DeRozan deserves his credit as well. His willingness to adapt to the new style the Spurs have been playing has made him the perfect veteran for this team and he’s been a big factor in helping the Spurs fight to within striking distance of a playoff spot.
But tonight could be the last time that we see DeRozan play in a Spurs uniform. If San Antonio loses this game with Utah there’s no possibility of a play-in series and they’re on to the offseason. That means DeMar can finally give some thought to the upcoming player-option he has. If he opts out of his current deal there’s a very real chance that some team like Atlanta or New York could offer him a deal that the Spurs are simply unwilling to match.
There was a time when I was a huge proponent of the Spurs moving on from DeMar, via trade or encouraging him to opt-out. But his performance in the bubble has softened my stance on that issue. He’s done an amazing job of sitting back and letting the young guys run for most of the game and then stepping up when it’s time to close games out.
Maybe it’s the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles that’s created the opportunity for this version of DeRozan to thrive but in any case, it’s been a joy to watch.
If tonight is the last we see of DeRozan in a San Antonio Spurs uniform, we should all be thankful for the time we did get to have with him on the team. For all the complaints about his defense and how he was stifling the development of younger players, DeMar had two of the best seasons of his career in the Alamo City and was a key part of the Spurs tying the NBA record for most consecutive appearances. There is no reason for any Spurs fan to be anything but incredibly happy with the time we have had with DeMar so far.
While watching for all of these factors, keep an eye on the games between Dallas and Phoenix, as well as the contest between Memphis and Milwaukee. Both have massive implications on the fate of the San Antonio Spurs.