The previous couple of weeks have seen more of the bad than the good with the Spurs usually having more losses than wins each week. But this past week saw the Spurs get two wins (although not consecutively) in pretty convincing fashion. Even though the two wins were against at or below .500 teams, the Silver and Black showed signs of progress.
Week 10: The Spurs showed everyone that offense is not necessarily the problem in their high scoring game versus the Grizzlies, making it the 3rd highest scoring game in the Popovich era. LaMarcus Aldridge was hitting on all cylinders, Trey Lyles had a quietly impactful night, and DeMar DeRozan was the definition of efficient with 26 points on 10 of 11 shots. But then the Spurs traveled down to Dallas to meet the Mavericks who were just getting Luka Doncic back from an ankle injury. The game was exciting and close (as to be expected when we play our in-state rivals), but the Silver and Black just couldn’t pull it off in the end. DeRozan and Rudy Gay had great nights, but Aldridge and the others couldn’t contribute much. Before anyone could get too down, the Detroit Pistons came in to the AT&T Center and the Spurs had a chance to get some revenge for a huge loss earlier in the season. And boy did they. LMA showed that he was capable of changing the game, getting a record 5 threes, out of the team’s 18 made threes for the night. Lonnie Walker IV got some early playing time and had some brilliant highlight plays. Gay, DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, and Dejounte Murray also contributed big time.
Last week: 2-1 (13-18) - 145-115 @ Grizzlies; 102-98 @ Mavericks (loss); 136-109 vs. Pistons
Tim MacMahon, ESPN - 10 (Last Week: 18)
The Spurs went 2-1 last week, recording their two highest-scoring games of the season in the wins and coming up a couple of points shy of triple digits in the loss. LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 27.3 points in the three games and is suddenly letting it fly from 3-point range. He was 3-of-5 from long distance in his 40-point performance Monday against Memphis, matching a career high for 3s made that he surpassed Saturday, when he had 25 points and was 5-of-6 on 3s against the Pistons.
Michael Shapiro, SI.com - 17 (Last Week: 17)
Gregg Popovich bristled at questions regarding Lonnie Walker IV’s playing time on Saturday, though it’s certainly a fair inquiry from the San Antonio media. The second-year wing is perhaps the Spurs’ best athlete, and he’s shown flashes of brilliance in spurts this season. For a team outside of the title chase, Popovich is particularly stingy with minutes for Walker and the rest of San Antonio’s youngsters.
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports - 15 (Last Week: 16)
The Spurs offense exploded in wins this week over the Grizzlies and Pistons, putting up 281 points combined. They sputtered against the Mavericks, however, and dropped a close game in Luka Doncic’s return. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan each averaged over 25 points per game for the week, and Aldridge went 9 for 13 from the 3-point line in the three games — a good sign for the team that makes the fewest 3s per game in the NBA.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 14 (Last Week: 16)
Team Mid-Range has shot better than 50% from between the paint and the 3-point in five straight games (with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan a combined 38-for-61 over that stretch), having done so in just four of their 26 games prior to that. They still lost two of those last five games, getting outscored 74-40 in the paint by the Clippers and 48-24 from 3-point range by the Mavs. Shooting better than 50% from mid-range is plainly unsustainable, and an increase in 3-point attempts (Aldridge has attempted 13 over the last three games) has been more at the expense of shots at the rim than than mid-range jumpers. But the Spurs have shown improvement on the other end of the floor - they rank sixth defensively over the last four weeks - and are just percentage points out of a playoff spot, with a big game against the seventh-place Thunder on Thursday.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report - 17 (Last Week: 23)
Big scoring nights aren’t unusual for LaMarcus Aldridge. His season-high 40 points in last Monday’s 145-115 demolition of the Grizzlies marked the eighth time he’s reached that total in his career. In contrast, the three triples Aldridge hit in that game do warrant discussion.
Aldridge’s trio of treys tied a career high, as did his five attempts. That is until he broke both marks later in the week against Detroit by going 5-of-6 from deep.
The Spurs have caught deserved heat for their anachronistic shot profile, and DeMar DeRozan continues to avoid eye contact with the basket when he’s beyond the arc —even when he catches it with ample space to fire. But Aldridge is quietly averaging career highs in makes and attempts from deep and has already taken more threes than he did all of last year.
Even if he’s still at just two long-range tries per game, at least he’s nudging San Antonio toward the modern era of shot distribution. The Spurs made 18 threes in their 136-109 pummeling of the Pistons on Saturday, a season high.
Though they seemed to be coming undone earlier in the month, the Spurs have won two of their last three and can finish December with a 7-5 record if they handle the Warriors on Tuesday.
We are about to hit the new year. What resolutions do you want to make for the Spurs? Are they trending in the right direction? Let us know what you think in the comments.