Don’t look now, but the Spurs are still in the playoff hunt. Despite not playing a single game over the last 5 days, they managed to gain a half game on 7th and 8th place, thanks to the rest of the bottom half of the Western Conference playing a lot like the Spurs for much of the year.
Despite gaining a little ground, the Spurs actually dropped in the standings from tied for 10th to 12th. More importantly, though, their 14 losses is now just 1 more than the Kings, Suns and Thunder, who all have the same record at 11-13 and sit in 7th, 8th and 9th, respectively.
It’s never safe to assume anything with this team, but if they take care of business against the Cavaliers at home tonight and the Suns in Mexico City on Saturday, the Spurs could really be back in the thick of things. Pretty much everybody else in the running for those last two playoff spots has a rough next few days.
- The Trail Blazers, who are currently one spot ahead of the Spurs with a 10-15 record, play in Denver tonight. The Nuggets are riding a 3-game losing streak but still sit at 14-8.
- The Timberwolves, who are just a half game ahead of the Trail Blazers and Spurs at 10-14, have the privilege of hosting the 19-7 Clippers on Friday night.
- The Thunder have their own trip to Denver on Saturday evening to deal with the Nuggets’ formidable home court advantage.
- The Suns are off until they play the Spurs on Saturday afternoon, giving them the 2nd easiest weekend slate.
- The Kings, though, have only to host the Knicks tomorrow night. It will be interesting to see if they can manage to play a game that doesn’t come down to the last minute. Three of their last four, including their overtime loss to the Spurs, have been decided by a single point, and they won the other game by four.
If — and it’s a big if — the Spurs can extend their winning streak out to 4 in a row for the first time this season, they’ll be 11-14 and could easily find themselves in a three-way tie for 8th place with the Suns and Thunder by the time the dust settles on Saturday. In case you don’t remember, the team fell to 11-14 last year, too, before embarking on their incredible December run that turned the season around.
Of course, it’s unlikely all the favorites will win, and the Spurs are no safe bet, either. They still have a net rating of -3.3, per Cleaning the Glass, which is the equivalent of a 33 win team. They still have a bottom 10 defense and an average offense. Now that another horrible November is in the books, perhaps they’ll turn it around like last year’s team did, but there’s a reason Tankathon has them at 9th in the lottery.
There is still plenty of time left in the season for the Spurs to recover and make the playoffs, but they control their own destiny. It’s up to them to make the changes required to win more, not count on opposing teams to keep losing for them.