After legitimately looking like they might make a postseason push in January, the Spurs are spiraling out of control and out of the playoff race. Execution, intensity, and shooting percentages are down, and as a result, the good guys are a dismal 3-7 over their last ten outings.
The Silver and Black are off to a four-game losing streak to begin possibly the toughest Rodeo Road Trip in franchise history. Though losses to the Clippers and Lakers were understandable, dropping one in Portland loss was frustrating, and the Kings game was easily the most winnable contest of their exhausting cross-country excursion.
As of writing this, San Antonio is one and a half games away from falling to the 13th seed and four games from reclaiming the 8th and final Western Conference playoff spot. While there is still plenty of time to right the ship, Popovich and crew face a monumental obstacle if they want to rejoin the ranks of respectability.
The Spurs are a disheartening 8-18 outside of the AT&T Center, and seven of their next ten games are on the road. Only the Warriors are worse away from home when it comes to Western Conferences clubs, and the fact that seven of San Antonio’s next nine opponents are playoff teams won’t help their cause.
This next stretch of their schedule could make or break their season, and the consequences of their performance are bound to be historic either way. The Spurs will set an NBA record if they sneak into the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive year. If not, they will visit the lottery for the first time since selecting Tim Duncan in the 1997 Draft.
Can the Spurs power through adversity, or will they sink under the pressure of the towering task ahead?
Feb 10: San Antonio Spurs @ Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have quietly climbed to second place in the West behind one of the deepest rosters in the association. Headlined by superstar center Nikola Jokic and right-hand man Jamal Murray, Mile High City is home a dark horse title contender.
Denver has several capable scorers, but what sets them apart is their stifling defense. Leaguewide, they rank 3rd in points allowed (106.2 PPG) and 2nd in opponent three-point percentage (33.8%). Plus, their ability to force opponents to play at their pace makes them a challenging adversary.
Michael Porter Jr. is averaging nearly 15 points per game over his last ten appearances, and the offseason addition of Jerami Grant has supplied Denver with a boost on both ends of the court. This is a first-round rematch from a year ago, but these organizations have headed in opposite directions since Game 7.
Feb 11: San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Though San Antonio split their first two meetings with Oklahoma City, the latter has been on a roll as of late. The Thunder are 13-5 since they defeated the Spurs on January 2nd, and Chris Paul has been named an All-Star for the first time in three seasons.
The future Hall of Famer has completely flipped the narrative surrounding his unceremonious arrival this summer, and his leadership has been instrumental in the development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Together they have led OKC to a surprisingly successful regular season alongside Danilo Gallinari.
On paper, I could see this matchup going either way, but it’s difficult to pick against the Thunder when they’re operating at such a high level. The good guys haven’t shown much life on the Rodeo Road Trip, and I have no reason to think they will turn things around in the final game before the All-Star break.
Feb 21: San Antonio Spurs @ Utah Jazz
There may be some truth to the Silver and Black performing better against better squads, but the reality is they’re only 9-17 versus teams above .500 this season. Though the Jazz are among the best teams San Antonio has defeated, I wouldn’t bank on a second upset.
Mike Conley is healthy, Donovan Mitchell is balling out, and Rudy Gobert is building a convincing argument for his third-straight Defensive Player of the Year Award. These franchises are in two completely different echelons, and right now, San Antonio can’t seem to break out of their funk.
Feb 23: San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder
We already went through this exercise earlier, and I don’t see this one panning out differently. The Spurs are 8-18 on the road this season, so ending the Rodeo Road Trip on a positive note against a playoff team would be a bit unexpected.
Sam Presti did a masterful job of rebuilding Oklahoma City on the fly this offseason, and all his wheeling and dealing have paid off. This mix of highly effective veterans and incredibly talented youngsters is going to be a handful for whoever they battle in the 2020 postseason.
Feb 26: San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis have traded time on the sidelines with injuries this year, but they should both be 100% for this interstate showdown. The 2019 Rookie of the Year has put himself on the map as an MVP candidate, and his running mate has finally begun shaking off the rust.
Porzingis averaged 35 points and 12 rebounds on 53-43-91 shooting splits throughout 3 games versus the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and Memphis Grizzlies. Despite the Mavericks going 1-2 in those contests, Dallas is in position to make some noise in the second half of the season.
This is a less than ideal competitor to face fresh off the 2020 Rodeo Road Trip, but sometimes an 82 game schedule can be cruel like that. Even if San Antonio loses, I’m sure they’ll take solace in the familiarity of a friendly audience.
Feb 29: San Antonio Spurs vs. Orlando Magic
Orlando is one of those rare playoff teams nobody is afraid to match up with. They sport a 22-31 record in a ridiculously top-heavy Eastern Conference, and the loss of Jonathan Isaac on New Year’s day hit them like a ton of bricks.
Miraculously, the Magic have hung on to their league-best scoring defense (104.9 PPG) without the services of their top defender. They possess length and athleticism at virtually every position, and putting points on the board isn’t going to be easy.
While they excel at making stops, their offense lies at the opposite end of the spectrum. At 103.1 points per game, they own the second-worst scoring offense in the NBA, and their 43.1% shooting from the field lands them in dead last in that category.
Mar 2: San Antonio Spurs vs Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are another Eastern Conference playoff team in the middle of serious travails. Indiana has lost six of their last seven games, with their lone victory coming against the lowly Chicago Bulls in overtime.
Although they find themselves in a rut, the Pacers have loads to look forward to as they fight for a higher seed. Domantas Sabonis is a first-time All-Star, T.J. Warren has been better than advertised, and Victor Oladipo is back in the lineup following a year-long absence.
The Spurs will have the luxury of suiting up in Alamo City, but there hasn’t been much of a homecourt advantage at the AT&T Center. San Antonio is a middling 14-12 at home, and they’ve already lost to 14th place Hawks in their own building.
Mar 3: San Antonio Spurs @ Charlotte Hornets
I’ve advised fans not to pencil in any victories this season, but this feels like a contest the Silver and Black SHOULD win. The Hornets are an atrocious basketball team, and their association-worst offense and decent defense can attest to that.
Charlotte blew a 19 point lead and lost by 24 points in the first go-round, and their last win came against the New York Knicks. The lottery-bound Hornets are 3-19 since December 18th, so San Antonio SHOULD be able to keep them from their fourth win in almost as many months.
Mar 6: San Antonio Spurs @ Brooklyn Nets
The Spurs took care of business when Brooklyn came to town, but this time they’ll be taking their show on the road. Though Kyrie Irving and crew have been relatively average by most standards this season, they own the talent to put up a strong fight on any given night.
The Nets may be without the assistance of Kevin Durant, but there’s enough firepower between Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Joe Harris to rattle any defense. San Antonio will need the perimeter coverage of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV if they hope to slow down this dangerous backcourt quartet.
Mar 8: San Antonio Spurs @ Cleveland Cavaliers
The good guys may have suffered an embarrassing overtime loss at the hands of the Cavaliers earlier this season, but let’s be honest. By the time we reach this point of the year, Cleveland likely won’t be trying to win any games in an attempt to maximize their lottery chances.
While our Spurs have gone through major highs and lows, it’s difficult to imagine dropping a second game to the worst team in the Eastern Conference. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan SHOULD feast on this bottom five defense, and as long as that happens, San Antonio SHOULD add another game to the win column.