The San Antonio Spurs return home for back-to-back games against the Rockets to highlight their week four schedule. Here’s how I predict they’ll fare.
As the San Antonio Spurs look to begin their week by closing out a successful five-game road trip after starting 3-0, their chemistry seems to be growing more and more each day. After facing the defending champions three times in nine days, they’ve still fought their way to a 5-4 record heading into a four-game week.
LaMarcus Aldridge’s return has been a welcome sight for the team, who are now 5-1 with him back in the lineup. While he’s been a milder version of himself to start the season, his 28-point performance in which he nailed 3-of-7 from deep against the Lakers showed he still has plenty to offer.
Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan is doing what we’ve grown accustomed to him doing — closing out ballgames. DeMar put the team on his back in game one against the Timberwolves on a night where the Spurs gave up 50-percent shooting from both the field and 3-point range.
Last week’s shining supporting cast featured a heavy dose of Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, and Keldon Johnson — all of which made clutch plays on both ends of the floor to get San Antonio back above .500 for the season.
As will be the case all month, the Spurs will be playing every other day this week, beginning with a Sunday evening rematch with the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ll then travel to Oklahoma City Tuesday before making their return to the AT&T Center for a two-game homestand against the Houston Rockets on Thursday and Saturday.
As San Antonio looks to get some separation from the .500 mark, here are my predictions for how they’ll do this week.
1. San Antonio Spurs @ Minnesota Timberwolves 1/10 @ 8 pm ET
The Spurs are coming off a narrow 125-122 overtime victory over the Timberwolves, who shot lights out but coughed the ball up just enough for San Antonio to prevail. As was announced Sunday afternoon, DeMar DeRozan won’t be with the team due to flying to Los Angeles to tend to his ill father. Best wishes to him and his family as he deals with something more important than basketball.
Karl Anthony-Towns, meanwhile, who lit up the Spurs in his return to the court, didn’t look all that comfortable with his injury, stating after the game that he couldn’t really use his left hand. Things will undoubtedly look different from last night, so the biggest factor might come down to if KAT plays in this one as well.
If the Timberwolves want to protect their franchise guy, they should opt to rest him on the second night of a back-to-back after playing 37 minutes Saturday. Assuming this happens, I’m predicting another Spurs win, assuming Malik Beasley has come back down to earth.
Final Score prediction: Spurs 111, Timberwolves 104
Next: Game 2
2. San Antonio Spurs @ OKC Thunder 1/12 @ 8 pm ET
The last time the Spurs faced the Thunder was nearly a year ago when they fell 131-103 in a pre-pandemic February matchup. In that game, San Antonio had no answers for Oklahoma City’s balanced attack that featured Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, and Dennis Schroder.
When the Spurs meet OKC again Tuesday, four of those five won’t be on the court. The Thunder lost four of their five top scorers from last year over the offseason, with their leading scorer in Shai being the last man standing. Still, the scrappy Thunder have managed to win half of their eight games to start the season.
San Antonio also played Marco Belinelli, Trey Lyles, and Bryn Forbes for over 15 minutes each in the last meeting with the Thunder, which explains the 58 percent shooting they allowed.
The main point is this game will be as unpredictable as all of last week’s games. Who would’ve thought the Spurs would get annihilated against Utah only to beat the Clippers and Lakers back to back? Clearly, I didn’t, since I went just 1-3 with my predictions.
The key to a San Antonio Spurs victory will be in their ability to guard the perimeter effectively. Although the Thunder are 28th in the league in 3-point percentage, they shoot the fourth-most in the league. The Spurs have repeatedly been burned by hot shooting from unexpected guys this season, so they have to treat this guard-heavy lineup like they’re all a bunch of Steph Currys.
I think San Antonio keeps up their road success and takes care of business here.
Final Score prediction: Spurs 104, Thunder 94
Next: Games 3 & 4
3. Houston Rockets @ San Antonio Spurs, 1/14 @ 8:30 pm ET
Speaking of teams with a whole new look this season, the Houston Rockets will be lying in wait for back-to-back matchups with the Spurs to wrap up the week. Of course, the Rockets traded Russell Westbrook for John Wall over the break, but that was one of just many moves they made.
The Rockets now also have a new coach in Stephen Silas, a new GM in Rafael Stone, and a new dominant center in Christian Wood. The Spurs learned the hard way in the preseason that Wood will be a thorn in their side for years to come, as he poured in 27 points and from everywhere on the floor while also nabbing 10 boards in a Rockets win.
San Antonio simply doesn’t have the personnel that can slow Wood down short of doubling him, as LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl aren’t quick enough while guys like Rudy Gay aren’t strong enough.
For the first time in years, the Rockets aren’t in the top five in 3-point attempts, with their 38.3 per game currently putting them at ninth. The Spurs will need to have a strong defensive presence in the paint, as James Harden, John Wall, and Eric Gordon all can drive with the best of them.
My rule of “teams usually split a two-game series” has rare exceptions, but I don’t believe this will be one of those. I feel like the return home has “trap game” written all over it, so I’m giving round one to the Rockets.
Final Score prediction: Rockets 112, Spurs 106
4. Houston Rockets @ San Antonio Spurs, 1/16 @ 5 pm ET
I may very well end up having the order reversed in predicting a one and one split, but it’s not like my track record has been all that great anyway. In a grudge match with Houston, I feel like Coach Popovich will make some key adjustments to get the Silver and Black back on track heading into another two-game road trip.
San Antonio takes control in the third quarter of this one and never looks back.
Final Score prediction: Spurs 115, Rockets 101
Current season prediction record: 3-6 (ouch)