The San Antonio Spurs will have one home and one away game in their first week of NBA action. Here’s what I expect as they tip off a new season.
A mere 132 days after they wrapped up their season on the Orlando campus, the San Antonio Spurs are starting a new mission Wednesday evening. The goal: to return to a place that became synonymous with the team for over two decades — the NBA playoffs.
Although they’ll be tipping off their season on the road in Memphis, the environment won’t be as unfriendly as it usually is, with the Grizzlies not hosting fans for the foreseeable future due to COVID concerns. After getting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, the Spurs will then meet the Toronto Raptors at home on Saturday — the first game in the AT&T Center since March 10th, 2019.
There will be plenty of things to keep our eyes on after a preseason that seemed mostly uninspired but had some bright spots. With a light week to begin the season, here are my thoughts on how San Antonio will perform with a clean slate.
1. San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies, 12/23 @ 8 pm ET
The Spurs and Grizzlies both finished last season with 39 losses, but the unbalanced scheduling due to the NBA’s shutdown allowed Memphis to play (and win) two more games overall. As a result, Memphis finished ninth in the Western Conference, losing the first-ever play-in game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
With all the NBA now planning for all teams to play 72 games this season, the Spurs will need to make every game count from the start, beginning with a western foe. Last season, the two teams split meetings, with San Antonio coming out on top last in Orlando, 108-106.
With a year under his belt, the sensational 21-year-old Ja Morant will be the one to watch for Memphis. Leading the Grizzlies in both points and assists per game as a rookie, Morant earned well-deserved Rookie of the Year honors and will only keep getting better.
Defensive specialist Dejounte Murray will have a tough assignment right from the get-go, as Morant and Dillon Brooks were both thorns in San Antonio’s side last season. With bubble stars Derrick White and Keldon Johnson sidelined for the Spurs, this one will probably come down to the wire. Still, I think San Antonio narrowly pulls this one out for a 1-0 start.
Final Score prediction: Spurs 106, Grizzlies 102
2. Toronto Raptors @ San Antonio Spurs, 12/26 @ 8:30 pm ET
Last season’s two matchups with the Toronto Raptors both came down to the wire, with a total of five points separating the teams in the split series. Having won 50-plus games in each of the last five seasons, these aren’t the same Raptors the Spurs used to push around in the 2010s.
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The Raptors lost a pair of important centers in Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol but retained Chris Boucher while adding former Spur Aron Baynes and Alex Len. Knowing their strong system run by Nick Nurse, they likely won’t fall off too much with new guys plugged in.
As they usually do, the Spurs stood mostly pat this offseason, with their most significant moves being their extension of Derrick White and the drafting of Devin Vassell.
The Spurs are targeting a January 1st date for fans to be allowed back to the AT&T Center, so they also won’t have much of a homecourt advantage when Toronto comes to town. Given that fact plus the absence of Derrick White, I’m leaning toward a Raptors win in the Alamo City this time around.
Final Score prediction: Raptors 111, Spurs 99
Week two will feature a matchup with the Pelicans and two with the defending champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, which I will have predictions available for Sunday morning.