The San Antonio Spurs have a loaded week ahead against a hungry, young team followed by two against LeBron James and the defending champion Lakers.
Not many are expecting big things from the San Antonio Spurs this season. After finally missing the playoffs last year, most in the national media feel like they’ll regress even further this year to the bottom tier of the Western Conference. So far, the Spurs are making that prediction look foolish.
With a road win against the Memphis Grizzlies and a comeback home victory against the Toronto Raptors, San Antonio is one of just four teams in the Western Conference with a 2-0 record heading into Sunday’s matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Given the Spurs’ shift from veteran-heavy rotations to a more balanced attack with young talent, their clutch play and resolve has been impressive so far. After being down 114-110 with less than two minutes against the Raptors, the Spurs ended the game on a 9-0 run that featured heady plays from veterans DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge mixed with icy free throws from Keldon Johnson.
Beginning with their first back-to-back, this week will show what the Spurs are really made of, as it features two showdowns against the 2020 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. However, San Antonio will have to first contend with Brandon Ingram and the Pelicans after a night of redeye travel.
Next: 1. A Date with Zion
1. San Antonio Spurs @ New Orleans Pelicans, 12/27 @ 7 pm ET
Although Zion Williamson had quite an NBA debut against San Antonio last season, the Pelicans have struggled against the Spurs in recent years. The Spurs have taken five of the last six from New Orleans with their latest victory being a 122-113 win in Orlando, in which DeRozan scored 27.
The Pelicans are paced by Brandon Ingram‘s 26 points and seven assists per game in the early season, while Williamson is averaging 23.5 points and 12 rebounds. After splitting Eastern Conference games with a win at Toronto followed by a Christmas loss in Miami, this will be the Pelicans’ first home game since March 6th.
While the environment will be less friendly than the confines of the AT&T Center, the crowd in New Orleans likely won’t be a major factor as the team is planning to host just four percent of its capacity to begin the season.
Given the travel and back-to-back circumstances, my first instinct was to take the Pelicans in this one, but with the way the Spurs have been rolling, I think they find a way to get it done again to match their 3-0 start last season. Like Toronto, though, it’ll likely be close.
Final Score prediction: Spurs 115, Pelicans 109
Next: 2. LA spends the New Year in SA
2. Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs, 12/30 @ 8:30 pm ET
The scary part about the Los Angeles Lakers is they seem to have taken their championship roster and — upgraded it even more? They lost Dwight Howard but quickly poached Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers and signed Marc Gasol just because they can. They dealt former Spur Danny Green for Dennis Schroder while adding Wesley Matthews to their backcourt as well.
The Lakers have an embarrassment of riches at all positions on the court and are rightfully heavy favorites to repeat as champions barring any unforeseen injuries. Last season, they took both games at the AT&T Center by an average margin of 8.5 points.
Still, I can’t help but think the Spurs are fortunate in getting two games against the Lakers out of the way this early in the season. The Lakers, of course, got the least amount of rest of any team in the West and will likely need some time to get back into the grind.
Los Angeles will also be on their third game in four nights when they travel to San Antonio but will have the day off before the December 30th matchup. The Spurs, meanwhile, will have had two days of rest before the game.
Still, once the ball is tipped off, none of this matters when you have LeBron James on the court. While these Spurs are sure to put up a better fight than last season’s, I think this game is where their streak ends.
Final Score prediction: Lakers 118, Spurs 107
3. Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs, 1/1 @ 8 pm ET
This game might just come down to who partied the least on New Year’s Eve, and since James Harden isn’t in town, I don’t think that will factor into this game too much. The Spurs ring in a fresh, hopefully much better new year with another showdown with the Lakers on January 1. I find that a two-game series almost always ends in a one and one split, and that’s with both teams usually getting to host one game each.
Given that San Antonio is hosting both of these games, I can’t see them dropping both with Gregg Popovich at the helm. Win or lose on the 30th, I’d take Coach Pop making some adjustments for a grudge match over any other coach in the league, so I’ll have to go with the Spurs taking their first game of 2021 and starting the year right.
Final Score prediction: Spurs 116, Lakers 110
Current season prediction record: 1-1