Gary Neal’s Absence Puts Off San Antonio Spurs’ New Plan Against Sacramento Kings
The San Antonio Spurs‘ 18-game home winning streak was snapped in overtime by the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, so the Spurs will be looking to start a new such streak on Friday night when the Sacramento Kings come to town. However, the Spurs will once again be without a primary member of the Other Big Three–Gary Neal, who will miss yet another game while battling soreness in his left calf.
Neal has been on the injury report for tightness and/or soreness in both of his calves at various points this season, but neither he nor the team knew just how severe the strain in his left calf was until this past week. Neal’s absence has delayed the start of the transition of the slight change in game plan for the Spurs, which now seems like it may have to be altered again if Neal is forced to miss significant time.
Over the past month or so, the Spurs have figured out they cannot lean quite so heavily on their Big Three. That was even more evident without Neal when the Spurs lost to the Suns on Wednesday night to fall to 0-10 in overtime games this year. Now Neal’s absence didn’t make a huge difference in the outcome of this specific game, or any of the others for that matter; however, not having the entirety of the Other Big Three on the floor has resulted in the Spurs naturally turning back to Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in crunch time and it showed against the Suns.
San Antonio needs Neal on the floor with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, along with the other Spurs reserves who have emerged recently, and start putting pressure on them down the stretch in order to get the ready for larger roles in the playoffs. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been trying to do this ever so subtly for the past week and a half, but he’s been unable to because of Neal’s absence. It will be interesting to see what the Spurs do against the Kings in the meantime without Neal, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw.