The San Antonio Spurs may not have their entire team back before the All-Star break, but that won’t stop them from competing. With their snubbed All-Star back in the mix, the Spurs ended their short week with a 117-114 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.
DeMar DeRozan surgically dissected the Pelicans, scoring 32 and dishing out 11 assists in his first NBA action since February 14th. LaMarcus Aldridge also showed he can still be a valuable asset off the bench, scoring 21 points on 5-of-10 shooting and pulling down five boards.
Now guaranteed a winning record heading into the All-Star break, the Spurs will need to secure as many wins as possible due to their extremely difficult road ahead. At 17-12, San Antonio is currently in the fifth spot in the Western Conference, but only 2.5 games separate them from ninth-place Dallas, who will have one of the easiest months I’ve seen in a while in May.
As they await reinforcements to come back as they clear health and safety protocols, the Spurs will have three home games to keep their rhythm going into the All-Star break this weekend. After going 1-1 last week to bring my predictions to 16-13, here’s how I think the Spurs will fare this week.
Next: Game 1
1. Brooklyn Nets @ San Antonio Spurs, 3/1 @ 8:30 PM ET
After starting the season off slowly, it’s safe to say the Brooklyn Nets have found their footing. Before their 17-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, Brooklyn had won eight straight games. Within those eight was a west coast road trip that saw the Nets tally wins over the Warriors, Kings, Suns, Lakers, and Clippers.
As Coach Popovich said before the Spurs’ win over New Orleans, some missing guys may return to the court before the All-Star break, but likely not all of them. Meanwhile, the Nets are sitting Kevin Durant out until after this weekend while Kyrie Irving is coming off a rest day against the Mavericks as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
In an unconventional season, injury reports are starting to pile up across the league, so knowing what’s going to happen is getting more and more impossible.
With so many questions up in the air about who will be available in this game, predicting it is like predicting a coin toss. Spurs by seven, because why not?
*Update: Kyrie Irving will be playing. Still, I already had my score locked in, so there’s no going back now.
Final Score: Spurs 113, Nets 106
Next: Game 2
2. New York Knicks @ San Antonio Spurs, 3/2 @ 8:30 PM ET
Let’s try this again. After having their first game in New York postponed, the Spurs will host the Knicks in the second half of a back-to-back. Behind a surprisingly efficient defense, the Knicks are playing .500 basketball this late in a season for the first time in forever.
Allowing just 104.4 points per game, the Knicks are the stingiest defense in the NBA. The problem? Their 104.9 points scored per game is only more than the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. Essentially, the Knicks are the epitome of old-school basketball. They play the slowest out of every team in the league, don’t score much, and don’t allow much.
The Spurs will need to have a strong defensive performance from Jakob Poeltl on Julius Randle, whose career year earned him his first All-Star nod this season. San Antonio will also get their first look at rookie sensation Immanuel Quickley and his deadly floater.
While I predicted the Spurs to win in the game that never happened, I just can’t predict any more wins on the second half of a back-to-back until they prove they’re capable — especially if they’re shorthanded.
Final Score: Knicks 106, Spurs 102
Next: Game 3
3. Oklahoma City Thunder @ San Antonio Spurs, 3/4 @ 9 PM ET
The Spurs were left with a bad taste in their mouth in their last outing against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite being severely shorthanded, San Antonio nearly pulled off a win at Chesapeake Energy Arena until they made a pair of crucial late-game mistakes.
To have a different result this time around, the Spurs will need to do a much better job on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who did anything and everything he wanted against San Antonio in the last meeting. The 22-year-old ended the night with a career-high 42 points on 13-of-20 shooting and made 10 of his 11 free throws.
By the time Thursday comes around, hopefully, the Spurs will have some combination of Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Rudy Gay back to lend a defensive hand on Gilgeous-Alexander.
Betting on some reinforcements to be made available by this game, I think the Spurs get revenge on Thursday in convincing fashion.
Final Score: Spurs 116, Thunder 102
My current season prediction record: 16-13