San Antonio at Sacramento
Time: 9 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: SAS -7
Odds c/o 5dimes
The San Antonio Spurs have won seven of its last 10 and are 7-9 on the road where it faces the Sacramento Kings at 9 PM (CT) on NBA League Pass Saturday night. The Spurs are 7-point favorites, and Sacto is just 6-13 on its homecourt and 11-20 overall.
The over/under is set at just 196 points, a reflection of San Antonio’s stringent defense which allows just 98 points per game.
The Spurs are one of only two teams (Boston is the other) to hold opponents to less than 100 points per game this season. The more things change the more they stay the same, as San Antonio bid farewell to Tim Duncan two seasons ago but still maintains one of the best defensive schemes in the league courtesy of head coach Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs also welcomed former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard back to its lineup, which should make a tremendous difference as the Spurs more than treaded water without its top player. Leonard has been eased into action, but in just 17 minutes a night through his first four games, he is averaging 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists. As Leonard rounds into shape, expect the Spurs to make a run at one of the top spots in the Conference. This is still a team replete with talent, and LaMarcus Aldridge is having a fine season in leading the team with 21.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Swingman Rudy Gay has been serviceable and helped slow the bleeding with Leonard out, while Pau Gasol may have declined a lot statistically he adds veteran leadership and makes smart basketball players. There is no mistaking this team, it has the stamp of Pop’s leadership on it, and plenty of experienced players to thrive in the postseason. While Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili may be in their twilight years, Ginobili in particular still sees a lot of crunch time minutes. Manu is averaging 8.4 points and 2.4 assists per game in just 20 minutes a night, but his defensive acumen and savvy play makes the Spurs a tougher team; it always has.
Second-year guard Dejounte Murray appears to be the eventual successor to Parker, while Patty Mills is more of the immediate solution. The pair combined averages 16.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, which is probably what either one could put up as the full-time starter in eventuality. There is the argument that Mills might not thrive on a team not coached by Pop, but that argument is frail and based on precious little. Mills is a clutch shooter, and Murray is quite athletic. The Spurs remain in good hands.
Sacramento has won its past two games, with victories over the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. The team did receive the bad news that rookie point guard DeAaron Fox will miss the next two weeks with a partially torn quadricep muscle. Fox is averaging 9.4 points and 3.7 assists per game, but having the typical shooting struggles that plague rookie guards. Second-year guard Buddy Hield has been disappointing, and he is averaging just 12.3 points per game after being the primary reason the team parted with DeMarcus Cousins.
Zach Randolph has overcome his legal troubles to lead Sacramento in scoring, but he averages just 15.9 points per game. Sacto manages just 96.5 points per game and turns it over 14 times a game. Searching for offensive improvement on this roster is tough, too, as Willie Cauley-Stein is an inconsistent scorer and inconsistency is a team-wide issue. Sacramento also needs more from George Hill, but it seems players head to Sacramento to bid farewell to productivity. Even with Randolph posting a PER Of 21.9, a team is in trouble when a declining power forward its its best source of offense.