Full preview on a Sunday? What can I say. I like the Spurs a lot and any chance to talk about them is something I will take gladly.
The Spurs are likely to be without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker today. Leonard's out with a hand and Parker's out with a hamstring. I have two hands and two hamstrings, so I must be screwed. Patty Mills is nearing his return from a rotator cuff injury but is now slated to return sometime in the next few games as opposed to the original mid-January timetable. Alexey Shved is out tonight with an ankle injury for Houston.
Houston is coming off a couple of big wins against teams missing their star power forwards. While Houston got through some difficult games with injuries, they still lost to a few of the best teams when their guys were out. I guess this is the tradeoff? Injuries suck no matter what.
I know a lot of you are excited about the new players coming off the bench for Houston. Essentially, Morey has turned Troy Daniels and Francisco Garcia into Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, and Shved. Still, these guys haven't played in Houston's system on either end of the court and D-Mo and Propeller Plane haven't played with these guys at all until Friday. So a lot of the cohesiveness will take time. Right now the bench players look more like they're playing a pickup game than they are actually running a system on either end of the ball. That will change, but give it some time. There will be stretches where it looks great and stretches where it looks awful.
Schedule breakdown: Both teams come in with one day off, but the Spurs were wrapping up a back-to-back in New Orleans while Houston hadn't played on Christmas like the Spurs. The trend of Houston more than an opponent continues, but I'm not complaining today. Nothing is worse than the second half of December that the Spurs have had to endure. Memphis twice, Portland twice, New Orleans twice, Clippers, Rockets, Dallas, and OKC once. Three back-to-backs. All from between December 15-31. Compounded with their injuries...woof.
As always, Tony must dominate fisher. Because fuck fisher
Tip off is at 6pm CST
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Cory Joseph
Tony Parker will be out for a while, according to Pop. That's a tough break for Parker and the Spurs, but it's been a blessing for Joseph. He's started 10 games this year, but I want to talk about his last two.
The Spurs are coming off losses to OKC and New Orleans, but CoJo has averaged 17/5 on 81% shooting in those two games. I'm sure most of us watched the OKC game on Christmas Day and I came away from that game thinking "This guy could start for a lot of NBA teams." He just seemed in control throughout and never forced the issue. Remember, he also went 9-11 from the field when these teams met earlier this season.
In short, don't sleep on Joseph having a big game. His rap career might not be as good as Parker's to date, but his NBA career is absolutely heading in a good direction.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Danny Green
They say numbers never lie, but they're wrong. Danny Green is shooting 43% from 3, but I can't remember him missing a triple all season. Seriously, close your eyes and imagine Green taking a 3. It was a swish, wasn't it?
Now for fun do the same thing with Ariza. CLANK!
Green brings a lot to the defensive end of the court as well. He's a safe bet to grab a steal or two along with a block. But it's his hounding defense that makes him such a great two-way player. Kawhi Leonard gets a lot of (deserved) credit for being such a fantastic wing defender, but Green gives the Spurs another 3-and-D guy to play on the opposite wing player and can give the Spurs a shot to shut down a star when Leonard is out.
He'll get minutes here so I'll put it here: Manu Ginobili has an accent, no doubt. And my family is from Iran so I've got no issues with accents. But oh man his really comes out in that NBA Gametime App commercial. Take the pledge becomes "take dee plejj." Come on Manu, I know your accent isn't that bad.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Kyle Anderson
Spurs fans were sure that babyfaced Kyle Anderson would spend a considerable amount of time in the D-League this year. That might have been the case were it not for the injuries that have forced Pop to play the rookie out of UCLA. Pop has done this before: playing a third stringer as a starter so as not to disrupt the second unit or his overall rotations. That's been the case here as well. Anderson might start but Belinelli and Ginobili will get the minutes here. That will create a quandary for the Rockets in terms of how to defend these guys plus Green. More than likely, Harden will guard Belinelli/Green and Ariza will take Manu when those guys are on the court together.
And I would be remiss if I didn't post this video. And by remiss I mean my buddy Blaine would kill me.
Power Forward: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Tim Duncan
I've really wanted to hear what D-Mo has had to say about the Smith signing but I haven't seen anything from him yet. McHale saying that he never promised to start Smith was a nice surprise. However, you saw how McHale planned to use Smith late as he rode Smith's advantage and versatility through the fourth quarter and OT against the Grizzlies.
So may be Smith should start, because it's vitally important that D-Mo get minutes with the backups since that group doesn't have much in the way of a shot creator besides him.
Is anyone surprised that Tim Duncan is having yet another great season? 16p/11r/3a/2b per game is ridiculous for a 38-year-old big man. Soon I hope the media will catch on that the Spurs and Duncan have found a time machine to give his youth back to him as he ages. For now, they've finally stopped writing off the Spurs at the beginning of each season. They'll be there in May, no matter what their seed is. There's no team in the West more comfortable with winning on the road than this team.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Tiago Splitter
Splitter missed time with a calf injury but has come back in recent games, though not to too many minutes. In his last 3 games he has played 49 minutes total and didn't register a point against the Pelicans on Friday. With Baynes available and Duncan able to play the 5, the Brazilian could see heavy minutes tonight against Dwight or very few as he continues to work into complete game shape.
Rockets: Propeller Plane, Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, Joey Dorsey, Isaiah Canaan
Spurs: Austin Daye, Aron Baynes, Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Matt Bonner
Prediction: Spurs win 112-89. For some reason I expect the Spurs to blow us out, despite the advantages going Houston's way.
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