The Spurs are precariously placed in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference, sharing a 40-30 record with the Pelicans and the Jazz. Just half a game further back are the Timberwolves while the Nuggets are sitting just outside the playoffs another 1.5 games back.
San Antonio have worked themselves back into a decent position after three successive wins, the latest of which was a 117-101 victory over Minnesota. LaMarcus Aldridge was dominant in the win, contributing 39 points and ten rebounds.
The Warriors are sitting much more comfortably, with their record of 53-17 leaving them comfortably in second place in the west. They are three games behind Houston, but likely won’t expend a lot of energy trying to catch down their rival in the regular season.
Golden State had a 124-109 win over Phoenix on Saturday, impressive in that they were missing Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Draymond Green picked up the slack with 25 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Quinn Cook played his best NBA game with 28 points.
Three keys to the game
The impact of injury - None of Durant, Thompson or Curry are expected to return in this game, leaving Cook, Nick Young, and Kevon Looney to pick up the slack. These fringe players performed well against Phoenix on Saturday, but San Antonio’s defense is a different story, and may be too much for the less experienced players to handle.
Spurs’ home dominance - The Spurs have reserved their best basketball for their home crowd this season. They are 26-8 at the AT&T Center, which contrasts starkly against their 14-22 road record. They have won their last four games at home.
History - So far this season, Golden State have not faced a whole lot of resistance when they’ve played the Spurs. In what is so far a three game series, the Warriors lead 3-0, and have won by an average of 13.3 points. When the sides last faced each other in San Antonio, Golden State had an easy win, claiming a 112-92 victory.
Matchup to watch
Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge - With Pau Gasol starting on the bench in recent games, Aldridge will play a number of minutes at the center position, but that won’t stop Green from guarding him. Aldridge is the Spurs’ most dangerous offensive player, and Green isn’t significantly undersized against him, so the Warriors' best defender will be assigned the biggest defensive assignment of the game.
Aldridge has scored 24 points or more in his last three games, and is coming off a 14-for-22, 39-point effort. At the other end of the floor, Green is scoring just 11.4 points per game this season, but he dishes out 7.4 assists as well. In the absence of his more offensively gifted teammates, he will play a bigger role at that end of the floor, as evidenced by the 20 shots he took against Phoenix.
San Antonio Spurs predicted starting lineup
PG - Patty Mills | SG - Dejounte Murray | SF - Danny Green | PF - Kyle Anderson | C - LaMarcus Aldridge
Golden State Warriors predicted starting lineup
PG - Quinn Cook | SG - Nick Young | SF - Andre Iguodala | PF - Draymond Green | C - Zaza Pachulia
Green has been a huge problem for the Spurs in all three of their matchups this season. In these games, he has averaged 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks. In the last of these matchups, he had a triple-double, three steals and two blocks.
Aldridge has likewise been a problem for the Warriors in these games, despite the Spurs’ lack of success. In the last of them he had 30 points and 17 rebounds, and in the season series averages 24.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 blocks.
The Warriors have been given a 6.5-point head start and expect the Spurs to cruise past that margin. They have returned to some good form of late and are playing a Warriors team which more resembles a sub .500 foster, given the severity of their injuries. Back the Spurs to cover this line.
San Antonio will have no problems winning their first game for the season against Golden State. Aside from Green, the Warriors lack star power, and their young players will really struggle against a well-drilled defensive unit.
Aldridge will be hassled by Green, but he has shown an ability to score despite heavy attention from one of the league’s best defenders, and will score 25-plus points again in this game. Led by Aldridge, the Spurs will run out 101-90 winners.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tip-off is at 9:30pm.