After a pair of wins last week, the Spurs returned to the negative column with two losses. However, some positives were discovered in the process. It looks like LaMarcus Aldridge’s new range could be here to stay, which could eventually make a huge difference on offense (and by extension, the defense when a rotation that takes advantage of the spacing can be worked out). Lonnie Walker IV also got some extended minutes in these games and even received his first career start.
Week 11: The Spurs beat the three time world champion Warriors . . . but right now they aren’t the champions. They are 29th in the league, last in the Western Conference at 9-28, and are missing the Splash Brothers. And it still took overtime for the Spurs to beat them. On the positive side, Aldridge hit a three, Walker played good minutes, and Patty Mills continued to play lights out. The win made two in a row, and the Good Guys were looking for number three (which hasn’t happened since the opening of the season) when the Thunder came into town. But the team everyone thought would be terrible after losing two of their top players had a surprise for the Spurs. The Silver and Black started off hot, but couldn’t sustain that through the second half even though LMA, Walker, and DeMar DeRozan all had standout games. Aldridge went 4 for 4 on three pointers, DeRozan added 30 points, and Walker played 21 minutes and did a little bit of everything.
The team then traveled to Milwaukee for the first game in a home-home series against the 1st place Bucks. Many believed we would get trounced from the tip, but the Spurs had some surprises. The first came before the game even started when it was announced that Walker was going to receive his first career start. That got Spurs Twitter excited, but it wasn’t the only positive that night. The Spurs actually stayed in the game for all of the first half, even leading at times, in small par thanks to 4 more threes from LMA in the 1st quarter. But alas, again it wasn’t sustainable, and Giannis Antetokounmpo showed why he is the reigning MVP.
Last week: 1-2 (14-20) — 117-113 vs. Warriors; 109-103 vs. Thunder (loss); 127-118 @ Bucks (loss)
Tim MacMahon, ESPN - 16 (Last Week: 16)
Has LaMarcus Aldridge suddenly become a stretch 5? Aldridge is 18-of-27 from 3-point range over the past six games, hitting more 3s during that span than he did all of last season. If the 34-year-old Aldridge continues lighting it up from long distance, it could boost his value in the trade market if the Spurs decide to go the rebuilding route. But San Antonio, which has an NBA-record postseason streak of 22 years, is just percentage points out of eighth place in the West standings at 14-20.
Michael Shapiro, SI.com - 19 (Last Week: 17)
Lonnie Walker IV logged his first career start against Milwaukee on Saturday, and while it wasn’t pretty (eight points on 12 shots), the more playing time for Walker the better. Ditto for Derrick White and Dejounte Murray. The Spurs need to find who will lead them into the next era sooner than later.
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports - 18 (Last Week: 15)
The Spurs beat the Warriors before losing to the Thunder and Bucks, and a season-saving winning streak seems more and more unlikely. Derrick White and Dejounte Murray haven’t made the leap San Antonio fans hoped for, and the steady production of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge just hasn’t been enough to overcome their bottom-10 defense.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 14 (Last Week: 14)
LaMarcus Aldridge has discovered that you get an extra point for shots from outside that big arc painted on the floor. Aldridge is 18-for-27 from 3-point range over the last six games and Saturday in Milwaukee was just the second time in 372 games with the Spurs in which he attempted more 3-pointers (seven) than mid-range shots (four). The Spurs are in eighth place and have had the league’s second best offense (116.3 points scored per 100 possessions) over the last 2 1/2 weeks, with Aldridge one of four rotation guys that have shot better than 50% on more than 50 shots over the last eight games. But they allowed the Thunder and Bucks to score more than 118 points per 100 possessions (shooting 61% in the paint and committing just 13 total turnovers) as the league’s toughest January schedule got underway with a pair of losses.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report - 15 (Last Week: 17)
Dejounte Murray didn’t sulk when head coach Gregg Popovich benched him in the fourth quarter of a tight game against the Warriors on Tuesday, which was a good thing for the Spurs. Murray’s seven points and key steal in overtime iced a 117-113 win.
”Prior to his [season-ending knee injury last year] and even in the beginning of this season, he probably would have gotten down on himself a little more than he would have liked and we would have liked,” teammate Patty Mills told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “But this time he put it behind him and came out and played.”
San Antonio is 5-4 in the nine games Murray has started since reclaiming his first-unit spot on Dec. 14.
Losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Milwaukee Bucks this week got 2020 off to a poor start, but the Spurs have played .500 ball since dropping to 5-11 on Nov. 22. They’re solidifying their position as a middle-of-the-pack squad.
Do the positives outweigh the negatives in your opinion? Are the analysts just focusing on the wrong things? Tell us what you think in the comments.