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Examining the challenge of the Spurs’ final five games

San Antonio could keep their 50-win streak alive if they take the home stretch one game at a time.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs’ much-needed win Sunday against the Rockets allows the team to relax heading into the final five games of the season.

Except that’s 100 percent wrong. It doesn’t at all, because even after toppling the team with the best record in the league by 17 points, the Western Conference continues to be a violent medieval battleground. Only one and a half games separate the Spurs from eighth-seeded Pelicans, who lost to the Thunder on Sunday afternoon.

If there is one thing the win against a lackadaisical Rockets team provided, it was more evidence the Spurs are hitting some kind of stride for the first time this season. Rudy Gay looked like the player the team needs him to be in the postseason, attacking in transition and efficiently scoring in isolation. Kyle Anderson continues to be a major factor on defense. LaMarcus Aldridge, possibly still feeling the effects of a bruised knee he suffered last week against the Wizards, contributed 23 points with 14 rebounds. And Dejounte Murray showed flashes of Tony Parker with his ability to shake off defenders and score at the rim.

Things look positive from fourth place, but the regular season will come down the final minutes of the final game. The Spurs are still trying to maintain home-court advantage in the first round. They also have to win out to preserve the historic 50-win streak.

Here’s a closer look at the last five teams they’ll face at the end of the one of the weirdest regular seasons in Spurs history:

April 3: Los Angeles Clippers

Active leading scorers (ppg):
Lou Williams (22.7)
Tobias Harris (19.4)
Dallino Gallinari (15.7)

After losing to the Pacers on Sunday, the Clippers are officially desperate for wins. A loss to the Spurs on Tuesday would put them at risk of falling out of the playoff conversation entirely. They’re currently two games out of the eighth spot. Considering the Spurs’ troubles on the road this year, both teams should come prepared for a physical battle in the paint.

The Clippers rank in the top five in paint touches, averaging slightly more than the Spurs with 24.8 per game. They’re also among the top 10 teams in isolation scoring, both in frequency and efficiency.

As for their weaknesses, the Clippers been having trouble containing teams’ second and third options, according to a recent article on Rudy or Dejounte may have more room to work in this one.

April 4: Los Angeles Lakers

Active leading scorers (ppg):
Julius Randle (16.3)
Kyle Kuzma (16)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13.6)

The Spurs have to take care of business in this SEGABABA, as the Lakers fell out of playoff contention weeks ago. The Lakers will also be the first team under .500 the Spurs face since March 13. Isaiah Thomas is recovering from surgery, and Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball may not play because of minor injuries.

Hopefully, the Spurs manage their energy. The Lakers like to play in transition, where they log 19.5 percent of their possessions – the most in the NBA. The Spurs can’t run with them, so I would expect another heavy dose of LaMarcus post ups.

It’s also worth noting the Lakers play the Jazz, who are also fighting tooth-and-nail for their playoff lives, the previous night.

April 7: Portland Trail Blazers

Active leading scorers (ppg):
Damian Lillard (26.6)
C.J. McCollum (21.7)
Jusuf Nurkic (14.4)

Portland will face the Mavericks and the hibernating-until-the-playoffs Rockets before taking on the Spurs next Saturday. Best case scenario, the Spurs catch them off guard with tough defense. But Portland, who is 16-4 in their last 20 games, has been running on all cylinders at the most critical point in the season. They’ve all but secured the third seed. Maybe they’ll feel more comfortable with their playoff position by the time they face the Spurs next week.

Dejounte also will have another chance to test his defensive prowess against an elite point guard in Lillard, who scored an average of 30 points per game through February and March.

April 9: Sacramento Kings

Active leading scorers (ppg):
Zach Randolph (14.5)
Buddy Hield (13.4)
Willie Cauley-Stein (12.3)

If the Spurs slip the previous three games, the Kings offer a chance to get back on track in the second to last game of the season. They will be the lowest ranked team the Spurs face in almost a month. They’ve only won eight of their last 23 games.

Zach Randolph, their leading scorer, is currently day-to-day with an injury. Dreams of a high lottery pick might keep him on injury report or the bench for the rest of the season. However, rookie De’Aaron Fox could shift the tone of the game by himself.

April 11: New Orleans Pelicans

Active leading scorers (ppg):
Anthony Davis (28.1)
Jrue Holiday (19.1)
Nikola Mirotic (12.8)

This game brings back memories from 2015, when the Spurs lost their last game of the regular season to the Pelicans and dropped from second to sixth place. In case you needed a refresher, the Spurs had been on an 11-game winning streak before that game. When they dropped to sixth, they drew the only other team who had been hotter at the end of the regular season: The Clippers.

The Spurs lost that first-round series in seven games, riding the single working knee of a 38-year-old Tim Duncan. Now, this game again may determine the Spurs’ matchup heading into the postseason. For the Pelicans, a win could be the difference between playing the Rockets and playing the Warriors in the first round.

I’m not sure I can pick the lesser of those two evils.