Opponent: San Antonio Spurs
Starting Lineup: Dejounte Murray - Bryn Forbes - DeMar DeRozan - Trey Lyles - Drew Eubanks???
Second Unit: Derrick White - Patty Mills - Lonnie Walker IV - Rudy Gay - Luka Samantic
Leading Scorer: DeRozan (22.6 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Lyles/Murray (5.7 RPG)
Leading Assists: DeRozan (5.3 APG)
Biggest Strength: Perimeter Playmakers
The Spurs are loaded with young guards who can create their own shot. That can be good and bad, since sometimes there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, but we’ll use it as a positive today. Murray, DeRozan, White, Mills and Walker are all guards who thrive with the ball in their hands and making something happen themselves. As a defense, this can be exhausting because everybody has to stay focused since the majority of the guys on the floor can create their own offense. Without much help from their big men, these guards are going to have to create all the offense for the Spurs, so it will be important for the Indiana Pacers’ guards and wings to stay focused on that end of the floor.
Biggest Weakness: Frontcourt Depth
Jakob Poeltl is out and LaMarcus Aldridge is doubtful. Yikes. I’m assuming San Antonio will have to play two-way big Eubanks in the starting lineup, with a little bit of rookie Semantic off the bench to add some length, but they are going to have to go full Houston Rockets small-ball out of necessity. That’s not good when going up against a big heavy team like the Pacers. Expect Domantas Sabonis to have a huge game, because I’m not sure if there is a single player on the current Spurs roster who can guard him.
The X-Factor: Gay
Gay has made a turnaround with the Spurs the past couple of years as a power forward, however he has taken a slight step backward this year. He’s averaging just 9.6 PPG on 43.5% from the field and 32.1% from beyond the arc. He’s a solid rebounder though, which makes him a viable option as a small….small-ball center in a crunch. His skills may be difficult for the Pacers’ big men to defend on the perimeter. Can Sabonis hang with him in a five-out lineup without Myles Turner’s rim protection behind him? Gay could have a big outing if he takes advantage of that opportunity.
The Spurs, when fully healthy, present a decent matchup with the Pacers, as they could employ their duo-big starting lineup of Aldridge and Poeltl. With both of them injured though? Look out. There’s some advantages to running an ultra small lineup against the Pacers, including pulling Sabonis to the perimeter when Turner is out of the game, which leaves the rim unprotected. But that’s not as big of an advantage as Sabonis is going to have on the offensive end of the court. The Spurs may try to double him in the post, so a big deciding factor in this one is going to be if guys hit their shots from the perimeter when Sabonis finds them out of the double team.