By now, the San Antonio Spurs were supposed to have played 32 games. Instead, they’ll be seeking their 17th win in a total of 28 when they meet the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
After last week’s multiple positive COVID-19 tests, the Spurs have now had five games postponed, the second-most in the NBA only to the Memphis Grizzlies. On Monday, the team announced the players who would miss the trip to Oklahoma City and potentially more games down the road.
To avoid having to postpone another game due to lack of eligible players, the Spurs recalled Tre Jones and Luka Samanic from the G League, giving San Antonio nine players (10 if Aldridge is ready to go by Wednesday).
With the return dates of DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, and Quinndary Weatherspoon all up in the air, the Spurs will have to adapt on the fly with a skeleton crew roster as they wind down the season’s first half.
Here’s how I think the short week will go for the Silver and Black.
Next: Game No. 1
1. San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder, 2/24 @ 8 PM ET
The first time these teams met this season, it was no DeMar, no problem for the Spurs. San Antonio turned to Lonnie Walker to carry the offense in the absence of their star, and he didn’t disappoint. Walker ended the night as the game’s leading scorer, making 7-of-15 from the field and all seven of his free throws to score 24 points with just one turnover.
Keldon Johnson (18), Dejounte Murray (16), and Patty Mills (17) all chipped in offensively, as well, helping the Spurs cruise to a comfortable 112-102 win at Chesapeake Arena.
This time around, the Spurs will be without five key members of the rotation. Containing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is already tough enough, but San Antonio will have an especially tough time not being able to put guys like Vassell, Johnson, or White on him.
This game will be full of combinations the Spurs haven’t used all season. This will also be the first time the team has played a full game since February 14th, while the Thunder have been playing a normal schedule all week. Let’s hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see San Antonio pulling this one off unless Oklahoma City barely shows up.
Final Score: Thunder 109, Spurs 101
Next: Game No. 2
2. New Orleans Pelicans @ San Antonio Spurs, 2/27 @ 8 PM ET
The Spurs will have two days after their game in Oklahoma City to hope for more reinforcements before their second game of the week, and they’ll need everyone they can get. Given the uncertainty of the timetable of each COVID case, we won’t know until later in the week who, if anyone, may be available by Saturday.
With how stringent the NBA has been with health and safety protocols, I’m predicting under the assumption that Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Rudy Gay may still be out for the showdown against the New Orleans Pelicans. Given that, I see the Spurs again struggling to adequately defend tough covers like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, who both went off against the Spurs in game one of the series.
While I expect this one to be a closer affair thanks to some adjustments by Coach Popovich, I think the personnel available might just not have enough to overcome the Pelicans’ young nucleus.
It’s not easy predicting a winless week, and I could very well end up on my own list of freezing cold takes the Spurs continue to dispel, but I think the lack of perimeter defensive talent will do them in once again.
Final Score: Pelicans 106, Spurs 102
My current season prediction record: 15-12