Who's gonna play tonight? You, Timmy?
The schedule continues to be brutal to us, as tonight we finish off a home-and-away back-to-back set in San Antonio where we'll take on the first place Spurs. Having won 9 of our last 11 games, and being labeled the hottest team in the NBA, right now, we can walk into San Antonio with our heads held high and our chests puffed up, but there's one major concern as we try and prepare for this matchup. With the Spurs playing last night against the Los Angeles Lakers, at this point, we really have no idea who will and won't play for them tonight.
Coach Pop has been known to wait until the last minute to make lineup decisions, so it probably won't be until closer to tip-off before we know who is going to start for the Spurs. And seeing as Tim Duncan (24 minutes), Tony Parker (26) and Manu Ginobili (26) all played last night, there's a good chance that any or all of these guys will sit tonight. Or, hell, maybe none of them will!
So, I guess we can look forward to seeing Boris Diaw pull a start? Maybe?
A healthy, rested Spurs team would obviously pose a huge threat to us. I guess you can say that so too would a "somewhat complete" Spurs team. Since, well, they're pretty deep. When full, they can bring guys like Diaw, Stephen Jackson, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner and, of course, Ginobili off the bench. Which is what makes them a tough team to play, even when they're resting their big three.
Slotting Diaw and Jackson into the starting lineup still makes them a tough beat. And the addition, and pretty solid play of Patty Mills at point guard has made it so that Tony Parker can get breathers from time to time. So it's not as if we can mark this one down as a win just because they sit Parker or Ginobili or Duncan. They're a deep enough team, and they can do enough damage without one or all of their three. Sure, they're not as good without them, but they're also not... the Bobcats.
I hate to say it, but we are going to need this win tonight in order to keep pace with the Los Angeles Clippers. Obviously anything can happen, but the Clips catch a slight break tonight when they play the Minnesota Timberwolves who will be without Kevin Love. So, things just got a little easier for the Clips in terms of holding on to that 4th seed in the West.
The good news is, even with a full roster, we matchup well against the Spurs. We have an easier time playing down/up to our opponent when they play a more contained, physical game, as opposed to trying to keep pace offensively with a high-scoring offense. We can go tough-set for tough-set with them. Even though they've been able to run the table on us this season.
San Antonio's matchups with Memphis (34-23) have been similar low-scoring, physical contests. After losing to the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Spurs have won all three matchups this season while averaging 89.0 points and limiting the Grizzlies to 79.7.
However, Memphis was without Zach Randolph the last two times the teams met due to a knee injury. Randolph, who is averaging 14.0 points and 11.5 rebounds the past four games overall, was critical in the playoff series victory for the Grizzlies, averaging 21.5 points and 9.2 rebounds.
Our offense is starting to really click, as we saw last night with just our second 100-point performance in 12 games, and we're finally healthy. If we can manage to get close to 100 points (let's not get crazy here and suggest we top it twice in a row!), our defense, coupled with the Spurs struggles on offense, should be able to keep them limited and in turn we should be able pull this one out. Should. Should. Should.
... The one thing that the Spurs do have on us tonight is, as mentioned, the element of surprise! We just don't know who will play. And that, yes, is pretty damn frustrating. Wouldn't you say?
We'll come back later and update if there are any status changes, but for now you have to think that at least one of the Big Three is going to sit tonight. Possibly. Maybe.
For more on the Spurs, see: Pounding The Rock