While being the shortest month of the NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs had a successful month of October, winning all four of the games they played. November, however, looks to present some challenges in the schedule giving this Spurs squad that has an almost entirely new big man rotation, some unique opportunities to grow early in the season. While the Spurs big win over the Golden State Warriors was exciting, it’ll be easier to determine the exact state of this current Spurs roster, their strengths and weaknesses and where they need to improve, after the 15 games this month. That being the case, now seems to be as good a time as any to analyze the Spurs’ schedule for this month and see what lies ahead for the Silver and Black.
Week 1 ( vs Jazz, @ Jazz, vs Clippers): On Tuesday, the Utah Jazz became just the third team to beat the Spurs on their homecourt during either the regular season or the playoffs since the beginning of the regular season last year, making this a pretty big win for a team that had garnered a lot of attention coming into the season. The Jazz were efficient on Tuesday night, shooting an effective field goal percentage of 59.9%. The Spurs’ offense, however, never quite took off, breaking 25 in only one of the four quarters. A chance for revenge will come soon, as the Spurs face off against the Jazz on Friday in Utah. The Spurs, who would love to have Danny Green for this matchup, but with him being about two weeks away still, San Antonio will have to find a way to keep the Jazz from shooting open jumpers from 3-point range. They showed on Tuesday that they are perfectly capable of making them and punished the Spurs on several occasions for not defending them better. Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers may just be the biggest test the Spurs have faced yet, coming on the second night of a back-to-back. Because of this, expect Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich to possibly rest Manu Ginobili during either the game against the Jazz or the game against the Clippers. Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge may each sit out one of the games as well, if either one of them are still experiencing leg soreness. The Clippers, who entered in the ‘Kevin Durant free agency sweepstakes’ this past summer, have seemed to have a weakness at the small forward position. Look out for Kawhi Leonard to have another huge game on Saturday night. The Clippers’ “big three” of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan will be important matchups for the Spurs, as they are lacking the rim protection that they once had against the Clippers after Tim Duncan’s retirement and Parker’s difficulty staying in front of Paul on the defensive end.
Week 2 ( vs Rockets, vs Pistions, @ Rockets): The bad news to start off week 2 is that James Harden, who has averaged 31.8 points, 12.4 assists, and 7.0 rebounds after five games this season, and the Houston Rockets are coming to town and Danny Green will probably not be quite ready to return just yet, making the task of defending Harden a bit trickier for the Spurs. The good news is that the Rockets’ defensive rating is ranked 29th in the league (109.0 Points Per 100 Possessions) and the Spurs will be entering the game on three days rest. This game presents the Spurs a good opportunity to get some of their offense to flow smoother, as there have been several stretches through the first few games of this season where the Spurs’ offense has become a bit bogged down. This is especially true in the starting lineup where neither Kyle Anderson nor Jonathon Simmons can provide the spacing that Green can. After a day off, the Spurs will face the Detroit Pistons at home. Detroit is currently off to a strong start, 3-2 after their first five games, and ranking in the top 5 in the NBA in defensive rating. While Reggie Jackson will probably still be out due to a left knee and right thumb injury, Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris have been leading the team both offensively and defensively. However, fans hoping to see Boban Marjanovic suit up may be disappointed, as he has only suited up for two games so far this season, playing a total of 8 minutes. The Spurs travel to Houston the next day to face off against the Rockets once again. The Spurs may be even more shorthanded in this outing due to the fact that it is the second night of a back-to-back, meaning that Spurs fans can’t assume a victory here if the Spurs win big against the Rockets early in the week, as Houston’s potent offense may feel even stronger with the backing of their home court.
Week 3 ( vs Heat, @ Kings, @ Lakers): This week is probably the earliest that fans can expect to see Danny Green suit up again, which will open up the floor on the offensive end of the court for the starters, and help take some of the load of perimeter defense off of Leonard. The first game of the week will be the last time that the Spurs face the Miami Heat this season. The Heat currently rank 9th in defensive rating, in large part due to holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage of only 49.3%, 15th in the NBA. While Leonard was able to will the Spurs over the Heat in their first meeting, the Spurs will need to keep the offense fresh, making good passes and taking good shots, if they want to avoid another close encounter against the Heat. They will then travel to Sacramento to face the Kings once again. By this point, the Kings’ starting point guard, Darren Collison, will have returned from his eight game suspension. DeMarcus Cousins presents matchup problems for the Spurs at the rim and when he is shooting from the perimeter, but their other main contributor, Rudy Gay, will find himself matched up against the two-time reigning defensive player of the year. While the Spurs may find difficulty in slowing down Cousins, the key will be to limit the other players, especially Gay. The Spurs will finish the week in Los Angeles, facing the Lakers. While the Lakers have started the season 2-3 and are ranked in the bottom third in both offensive and defensive rating, they are loaded with young talent. The Lakers currently do not have a player averaging more than 15 points a game, but D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson can all produce high numbers ina given game.
Week 4 ( vs Mavericks, @ Hornets, @ Celtics, @ Wizards): The Spurs will spend a majority of week 4 in the East, rounding out the week with their 5th away game in 7 games and their third back-to-back of the month. The Dallas Mavericks may have not had a great start to the season (0-3), but there is plenty of time for their offense to gel before they play the Spurs at the end of the month. While some had their hesitations about Harrison Barnes being their first or second option, Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle is a coach who has continually brought his teams to be greater than the sum of their parts. Bogut is a strong rim protector and a great passer who will make things difficult for the Spurs on both ends of the court. The Charlotte Hornets have been an effective defensive team so far, ranking in the top 5 in defensive rating. Roy Hibbert seems to be a better fit under Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford than he was during his time with the Lakers. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is growing into an incredibly effective perimeter defender and the Hornets have two potent offensive threats in Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum. The Boston Celtics are a team on the rise, considered by many to be the challenger to the throne of contender from the East. The Celtics outperformed many expectations last season and added Al Horford. While the fit hasn’t been perfect yet defensively with the Celtics ranking 17th in defensive rating, Head Coach Brad Stevens is an X’s-and-O’s mastermind who will have this team looking much stronger by the time the Spurs face them near the end of the month. The final game of the week is against the Washington Wizards on the second night of a back-to-back. While having an incredibly talented backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards have struggled stopping teams on the defensive end, which does not bode well for them against a Spurs team that will most assuredly be more in rhythm than they are currently.
Week 5 ( vs Mavericks, @ Magic); In the Spurs’ final week of the month, they play their fourth back-to-back of the month. They’ll have played a third of all of the back-to-backs they will play the entire season by the end of November. In their second matchup of the season against the Mavericks, Green will almost certainly be back, which means that rest or injury notwithstanding, the starting lineup and bench rotation will look much more like what it will probably be for a majority of the season than what it looks like now. The Orlando Magic have stumbled a bit out of the gate, producing a 1-3 record in the first four games, and ranking in the bottom 10 in offensive and defensive rating. The Magic are missing a three point shooter or two to space the floor, making it an easier task than the Magic would like it to be currently. Serge Ibaka has always presented a matchup problem against the Spurs though, and fans should watch how the Spurs game plan against him during this game. Regardless, the Spurs should find themselves in a position to end the month strong, looking a bit tighter on the defensive end and a bit smoother offensively than they came into the month.
Statistics used via Basetball-Reference.com and NBA.com/stats.