Preview & Prediction: San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers

The San Antonio Spurs look to bounce back from their loss at Memphis when they face off against the Philadelphia 76ers tonight.

The Spurs began their “Rodeo Road Trip” Monday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately, the Spurs lost that game, 89-74, due in large part to Kawhi Leonard being scratched before the game with a quad injury.

Without Leonard, the Spurs struggled to score.

According to Grizzlies PR, it was the Spurs lowest point total (74) since February of 2011, when they scored 71 against the 76ers. Coincidentally, the Spurs will face the 76ers tonight in the second of eight straight games on the road.

Despite their loss at Memphis Monday night, the Spurs are still 39-12, good enough for first in the Southwest Division, and second overall behind the Golden State Warriors.

However, this road trip is incredibly important, as the Houston Rockets are just three games back of the Spurs with a record of 38-17. Securing a second seed is crucial for the Spurs, as they would guarantee themselves home-court advantage in the first two rounds. Most importantly, they would avoid the Warriors until the Western Conference Finals.

The Spurs will look to improve their stellar 20-6 road record tonight against the 18-33 Sixers.

While the Spurs will continue to be without Paul Gasol, all signs point to Leonard returning to the starting lineup. If Leonard plays, it will take the scoring pressure off of LaMarcus Aldridge, who had one of his worst shooting nights of the season Monday in Memphis.

Aldridge scored 13 points on 4-19 shooting, with 10 rebounds, two blocks, and a +/- of -24. The Spurs were led in scoring by David Lee, who had 14 points in just 17 minutes of play.

The Grizzlies allow 99.3 points per game this season, third-best in the NBA. The 76ers, on the other hand, allow 106.5 points per game, 23rd in the NBA.

From December 30th to January 25th, the 76ers went 10-3. Since then, the 76ers have lost six of their past seven games, including a four game losing streak heading into tonight.

Why? 76ers rookie sensation Joel Embiid has missed the last six games with a left knee contusion and is questionable to play tonight.

Embiid’s impact on the 76ers has been evident all season.

With Embiid, the 76ers are 13-18. Without Embiid, the 76ers are 5-15.

When the 76ers have both Embiid and Ben Simmons on the floor at the same time, they could be a formidable tandem for years to come. For now, they will have to settle for being a bottom-of-the pack team while simultaneously trusting the process.

Prediction

The Spurs will bounce back for their 21st road win of the season.

Granted, how close the game will be relies entirely on the status of Embiid. With him, the 76ers score 108.9 points per 100 possessions. Without him, they score 97.7 points per 100 possessions, which would rank 30th in the NBA.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are an elite defensive team. They allow 98.7 points per game, second-best in the NBA behind the Warriors. In their last three games, the Spurs are allowing 90.7 points per game.

Obviously, the defense is best when Leonard is on the floor. According to head coach Gregg Popovich, he expects Leonard to suit up tonight, which is bad news for the 76ers.

Leonard is averaging 25.3 points per game on 48.5% shooting, along with 3.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 39.8% from beyond the arc and a free throw percentage of 90.2%.

Leonard is on the cusp of averaging 50/40/90 for an entire season. The other players to average 50/40/90 for an entire season? Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.

Unfortunately, the MVP race is arguably as stacked as ever, with Russel Westbrook and James Harden flirting with triple doubles, Isaiah Thomas leading the league in fourth quarter scoring, and LeBron James leading the league in minutes.

Nevertheless, Leonard is focused on returning tonight and securing a victory for the Spurs. Since the Spurs began their “Rodeo Road Trip” back in 2003, they have won 70% of their games and have an overall record of 82-35. Just last year, Popovich and the Spurs went 7-1 during the trip.

Look for Aldridge to bounce back from his poor shooting performance, although he and Leonard’s minutes may be limited tonight due to the blowout possibility.

Spurs win big in Philadelphia, and improve their overall record to 40-12.

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