When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Hornets are one win away from a .500 record and looking to get some basketball love on Valentine’s Day with a home win against a solid San Antonio Spurs team. Charlotte is coming off a close victory versus the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday while San Antonio absolutely demolished the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are one of the teams in the Eastern Conference with whom the Hornets are jostling for playoff position, so thanks Spurs!
San Antonio Spurs overview
The Spurs are hot right now having won seven of their last 10 games and are in first place in the Southwest Division. Their roster is a combination of experienced veterans and emerging young players who are led by one of the best coaches in NBA history.
Veterans include 31-year-old leading scorer DeMar DeRozan (20.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.8 APG), 32-year-old guard Patty Mills (13.3 PPG, 40.7 3PT%), 34-year-old reserve forward Rudy Gay ( 11.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG), and 35-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge (14.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG). The Spurs will likely be missing Aldridge tonight as he recovers from receiving a pain-reducing injection in his hip.
The young(ish) players for the Spurs include second-year forward Keldon Johnson, the No. 29 pick in the 2019 draft, who is having a breakout season averaging 14.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Versatile guard Dejounte Murray (14.7 PPG, 7.0 RBP, 5.0 APG) is quietly one of the more all-around productive guards in the league. Third-year guard Lonnie Walker averages 10.8 points per game, but shoots below 40% from the field.
Throw in the fact that Greg Popovich, who has coached the Spurs to five NBA titles, has been patrolling San Antonio’s sidelines since the 1996-97 season and the Spurs will always be one of the more prepared teams in the league.
How the Hornets can win
With LaMarcus Aldridge likely missing this game, the Spurs will be thin down low. While Aldridge’s game today is a far cry from where it was a couple of seasons ago, his absence will impact the Spurs rotations. San Antonio is a perimeter-oriented team even when Aldridge is playing. Jakob Poeltl will likely start at center and get more minutes than he normally does in his traditional reserve spot. Poeltl is a capable, effective role player but he’s not one who will give the Spurs an advantage over Cody Zeller in the paint. San Antonio will also need to rely more heavily on reserve bigs Trey Lyles and Drew Eubanks, a prospect that shouldn’t terrify the Hornets.
Charlotte should be able to generate offense by hunting for favorable match-ups on pick-and-roll sets. I would love to see Terry Rozier or Devonte’ Graham end up with Poeltl, Lyles, or Eubanks trying to cover them in isolation after a switch. As the Spurs react to those match-ups, I can foresee a lot of open corner 3s and Miles Bridges dunks coming off cuts to the rim as the ball moves quickly around the perimeter.
Speaking of Miles, earlier this week I wrote a column highlighting that he had dropped three straight double-doubles. Well, he did it again on Friday night with his 11-point, 10-rebound performance as Charlotte beat Minnesota. Let’s see if he can make it five consecutive double-doubles against a Spurs team with a thin front court. Bridges could also get big minutes if PJ Washington and the Martin twins remain out due to COVID-19 protocols.
This game will be a tough test for the Hornets. The Spurs are a solid, well-constructed, well-coached team. A victory in this one would go a long way for the Hornets as they continue to battle for playoff positioning in a crowded Eastern Conference. Let’s hope the Hornets show us some love with a Valentine’s Day victory.
What do you predict from tonight’s game?
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Easy Hornets win
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Close Spurs win
Easy Spurs win