The All-Star Break is often seen as the midway point in the season. But it really isn’t. The San Antonio Spurs have only 26 games to get themselves into the playoffs. While the Rodeo Road Trip is usually where the team gels, finds themselves, and start to focus in on the playoffs, this trip had some major bumps in the road. That doesn’t mean there weren’t highlights and things to feel good about.
Week 18: Ten days off can be a really great vacation or a period of time where rust builds and rhythm gets lost. I, like many, was worried that the Spurs would not be able to keep the momentum of their win over the Thunder prior to the All-Star break going. Luckily, I was wrong, well at least partially.
The San Antonio Spurs came out versus the Utah Jazz and played well for all 48 minutes. Dejounte Murray has been building a case for most improved player all season and this game was one of his best showings. Murray led all scorers with 23, had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. But the good showing by the Silver and Black couldn’t seem to carry over to one more game. On Sunday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder came out looking to get some revenge, and they got it with a 131-103 win over the Spurs. Nothing seemed to go right for the Spurs in this game. When Rudy Gay is the team’s high scorer with only 14 points, you know the offense was dismal.
Last week: 1-1 (24-32) — 113-104 @ Jazz; 131-103 @ Thunder (loss)
Tim MacMahon, ESPN - 17 (Last Week: 18)
Just when it seemed as if Dejounte Murray might be turning a corner in his development as a scoring threat, he had a doughnut in Sunday’s loss to the Thunder, going scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting. Murray, the 23-year-old point guard who signed a four-year, $64 million extension in the fall, had averaged 19.8 points on 60% shooting over the previous four games.
Michael Shapiro, SI.com - 18 (Last Week: 16)
Dejounte Murray doesn’t lack skill when driving to the rim or pulling up from beyond the arc (although in a limited sample), so why isn’t he more aggressive in the Spurs’ middling offense? The Washington product is too often comfortable serving as a secondary option, which is a shame as San Antonio looks to groom its new core. The last three games encapsulates the frustration with Murray. He combined for 48 points in a pair of games straddling the All-Star break, then scored a whopping zero points in Oklahoma City on Sunday. Shoot the ball, Dejounte. You’re too talented to take a backseat.
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports - 17 (Last Week: 19)
The Spurs picked up a big road win over the Jazz, then suffered a big loss to the Thunder on the road. They remain within striking distance of a playoff spot, but they’ll need the Grizzlies to struggle down the stretch.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 19 (Last Week: 18)
A year ago, the Spurs came back from a 1-7 rodeo trip and won their next nine games. This year, they got two wins on the trip, with Dejounte Murray totaling 48 points on 19-for-28 shooting in Oklahoma City (in the last game before the break) and Utah (on Friday, when the Spurs outscored the Jazz, 32-4, from mid-range). Eight of their next 12 games are against teams at or below .500 and nine of their next 13 are at the AT&T Center, but...
When they got back from last year’s trip, the Spurs were in eighth place and four games over .500. These Spurs are in 11th place and eight games under .500.
And with that 24-32 record, these Spurs haven’t shown the capacity to put together a significant winning streak. Their longest winning streaks of the season (two of them) have been three games long. Last year’s Spurs went 21-8, with streaks of four, five and five games, in the two months leading up to the rodeo trip.
This season’s Spurs already have more losses at home (where they’re 14-12) than all but two Spurs teams of the last 22 years. Those other two teams went 28-13 and 29-12 at home.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report - 21 (Last Week: 21)
It’s not hard to imagine San Antonio pushing the young Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans for the final playoff spot in the West. After 22 straight postseason appearances, the idea of this team missing out is sort of unfathomable.
But these aren’t your early-2000s or mid-2010s Spurs. They’re 24th in points allowed per 100 possessions, and their top two scorers both have comfortably negative net rating swings.
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, flanked by a decent supporting cast, are good enough to prevent a total collapse. But the overall talent of Memphis and New Orleans, when healthy, feels like a safer bet.
Do the Spurs have it in them to pull it together in the last 26 games? The analysts have made their points. Let us know what you think in the comments.