In a season where losses have been magnified much more than usual thanks to the Spurs being part of an extremely tight playoff battle, it almost feels like going 8-2 over their last ten games is an illusion — and not just because this is only the second time this season and first since mid-December that they have posted such numbers. But alas, here we are, and a lot of that success points towards two things: the schedule and LaMarcus Aldridge.
While their last nine games have all been against playoff-bound teams, eight of their last ten have been at home, which is where they have produced all those wins. Still, the two road losses to middling East teams in Milwaukee and Washington stand out, in some ways more than huge home wins against Golden State, Utah, OKC and Houston.
Perhaps that’s because going 2-9 on the road since the RRT and posting a losing road record for the first time in 21 years has magnified their need for home court advantage, and three of their remaining five games are on the road, starting with a back-to-back in Los Angeles this week. While they only need three, maybe two more wins to clinch a playoff berth, lose both of those games and the Spurs could very well find themselves with no home court advantage in the first round. Based on what this team has showed us away from the AT&T Center, that isn’t a very promising scenario.
Regardless, the Spurs have done what they need to do during a home-heavy but loaded stretch of schedule, and that along with continuous “Player of the Week” performances from Aldridge is what has them in a favorable playoff position today. They have five more games to clinch and prepare for the playoffs, and winning their road games would be a good start.
Week 24 - Still work to do: The Spurs are back on stable ground after a 6-0 home stand, but they still need results to stay in the playoffs.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 10 (last week: 12)
There are 10 days left in the season and the Kawhi Leonard situation remains as strange as it was in October. But the Spurs picked up two big wins last week, holding both the Thunder and Rockets under a point per possession. Pau Gasol got a spot start against OKC, but was back on the bench on Sunday and the Spurs’ small-ball starting lineup has outscored their opponents by 21 points per 100 possessions in 136 minutes since Gregg Popovich first went to it three weeks ago. LaMarcus Aldridge has been on fire since then, averaging 29 points on 57 percent shooting over the 10 games. The Spurs have won nine straight at home and are in fourth place in the West, but staying there will probably require a win or two on the road, where they’ve lost nine of their last 10.
Pace: 97.1 (29) OffRtg: 105.5 (18) DefRtg: 101.9 (2) NetRtg:+3.5 (7)
David Aldridge, NBA.com - N/A (Last week: 9)
ESPN Staff - 8 (last week: 9)
Gregg Popovich isn’t sure when -- or if -- Kawhi Leonard will return this season. Like most of this campaign, San Antonio has done well with its available pieces, winning eight of the past 10 games. Over that stretch, LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 28.8 points while shooting 57 percent and grabbing 9.0 rebounds per game, keeping the Spurs on track for their 21st consecutive playoff appearance.
Rohan Nadkarni, Sports Illustrated - 8 (last week: 8)
Another week, another bit of Kawhi drama overshadowing San Antonio’s surge back into the top half of the West. Gregg Popovich saying Leonard’s return depends on when Kawhi and “his group” feel he’s ready was pretty ominous. This is one of the strangest plotlines involving a superstar of Kawhi’s caliber for as long as I can remember. Will the Spurs just forget all of this if Leonard returns healthy next season? Does San Antonio still want him long-term? Whatever the case is for the future, I’m ready to bet Leonard won’t have much of an impact at all this season, be it now or in the playoffs.
Chris Barnewall, CBS Sports - 9 (last week: 9)
LaMarcus Aldridge has been the San Antonio’s best player this season, but he’s still trying to shake off a horrible postseason performance last season when he was called upon after Kawhi Leonard’s injury. This is chance to redeem himself, even if it doesn’t result in a run as deep as last time.
AJ Neuharth-Keusch, USA Today - 8 (last week: 9)
The Spurs, still without Kawhi Leonard, put together huge back-to-back wins over Oklahoma City and Houston over the weekend, and just like that, sit in fourth place in the West.