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Power Rankings, Week 23: Are the Spurs back?

Things suddenly look a little brighter after three straight wins at home.

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NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no need for fluff here, so let’s get right to the point. We said last week that the Spurs need to get results in this six-game home-stand if they want to make playoffs — preferably 4-2 or better — and so far, so good. After an expected loss to the Rockets to end The Road Trip of Death, which temporarily dropped them from the playoff picture, the Spurs came home and are doing what they need to do: win. And in convincing fashion, at that.

Despite yet again being fooled by the false profit into believing Kawhi Leonard might return, the Spurs got a much needed confidence boost in the form of a blowout win over the tanking Orlando Magic before a couple of convincing must-wins against fellow Western Conference playoff teams. However, the Spurs’ work is by no means done.

This week still consists of four games against playoff-bound teams, including a particularly important one against the Jazz. Any multi-team ties in the standings are decided by those teams’ records against everyone in that group, and at 0-3 vs. Utah the Spurs are going to be in trouble if they end up in any ties that include their SLC foes. The best thing they can do is get ahead of the Jazz all together, and winning that game is a good place to start.

The Spurs also have a chance for their first four-game winning streak since early December tonight against a depleted Warriors squad that seems content tossing any chance they had left at the top seed for the sake of health, followed by a Wizards team that has been missing John Wall since January.

Just one week after it appeared that the Spurs were in deep trouble following a 3-11 stretch that consisted of multiple four-quarter collapses, winning six in a row suddenly doesn’t seem impossible, especially if the Spurs keep up their current form. Maybe dropping to tenth so late in the season was the wake-up call they needed, so here’s to hoping they can continue playing with the edge that resulted from it for the rest of the season.

Week 22 - Upcoming home-stand could determine Spurs’ fate: How the Spurs perform on their six-game home-stand could determine if they make the playoffs or not.

Last week: 3-1 (40-30) - 93-109 @ Rockets, 108-72 vs. Magic, 98-93 vs. Pelicans, 117-101 vs. Timberwolves

This week: Mon. vs. Warriors (53-17), Wed. vs. Wizards (40-30), Fri. vs. Jazz (40-30), Sun. @ Bucks (37-32)

John Schuhmann, - 12 (last week:15)

The Spurs have put together their first three-game winning streak of 2018 at just the right time. And in their two huge wins over the Pelicans and Wolves last week, they held two top-11 offenses under a point per possession. They went to a new (small-ball) starting lineup (with a frontline of Danny Green, Kyle Anderson and LaMarcus Aldridge) last week, though they were a plus-17 in less than 13 minutes with Aldridge and Pau Gasol on the floor together against Minnesota on Saturday. Aldridge has averaged 29.3 points over the winning streak, shooting 16-for-28 (57 percent) from mid-range. This has been his worst mid-range shooting season (40.5 percent from between the paint and the 3-point line) since his rookie year, though that’s not a huge drop from his first two seasons in San Antonio (42.4 percent), and the percentage of his shots that have come from mid-rage has dropped from 52 percent over those two seasons to 41 percent this season. He still ranks second in mid-range attempts.

Pace: 97.3 (29) OffRtg: 105.3 (18) DefRtg: 102.1 (3) NetRtg:+3.2 (6)

(Side note: that stat on Aldridge’s mid-range game surprised me. I would have sworn he’s shooting better from mid-range this season than last, but I guess it’s a result of seeing less misses because of fewer attempts, plus he’s still shooting a higher percentage overall.)

David Aldridge, - 10 (last week: 10)

Golden State, Washington, Utah, Milwaukee, Washington, Oklahoma City, Houston. And then, we’ll probably know if the Spurs are going to make the playoffs for the 21st straight season.

ESPN Staff - 11 (last week: 14)

LaMarcus Aldridge went for 39 points and 10 rebounds in the Spurs’ win over the Timberwolves on Saturday. Aldridge is the first Spur to go for 35 and 10 in more than a decade. Tim Duncan was the last San Antonio player to put up that line, in December 2007 in a loss to the Suns.

Rohan Nadkarni, Sports Illustrated - 8 (last week: 18)

Three straight wins for the Spurs, who need every win in the bank with an upcoming stretch of six straight games against playoff teams. Still no Kawhi Leonard here, and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll even come back this season.

Chris Barnwell, CBS Sports - 12 (last week: 19)

When healthy, San Antonio’s best duo is LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, especially since the offense is designed around the two. However, the more interesting duo is Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. It’s still fun to watch the two remaining pieces from the glory days share the floor together.

AJ Neuharth-Keusch, USA Today - 11 (last week: 13)

The good news for the Spurs? They’re in a three-way tie with New Orleans and Utah in the West standings, are riding a three-game winning streak, and on Monday night face Golden State sans Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The bad? Games against Washington, Utah, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City and Houston are next.