The Spurs upset the playoff-bound Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, but with a 27-36 record at this point in the season, San Antonio’s fate has been all but sealed. It would take a miracle of unprecedented proportion to claw back into the postseason picture, and it appears the proud franchise is headed for the lottery for the first time since 1997.
A brutal beginning to the Rodeo Road Trip put the Silver and Black behind the eight-ball heading into All-Star Weekend, and a myriad of injuries following the much-needed break didn’t help their cause either. The good guys have lost four of their last seven games, and the same inconsistencies that have plagued their campaign have mired their three victories.
Seeing as the twelfth-place Spurs are a handful of games away from the eighth seed in the Western Conference, it wouldn’t be surprising if Gregg Popovich tinkered with the lineups to evaluate his assets. Keldon Johnson has become a regular in the rotation over the past four outings, and Luka Samanic finally made his NBA debut 61 games into the year.
The destiny of DeMar DeRozan and several of the veterans remains in flux, and San Antonio could be looking at a legitimate extended rebuilding process for the first time since the 1980s. This next stretch of their schedule might give us some insight into who stays and who gets the boot this summer, but the Silver and Black have little to gain win or lose.
Can the good guys salvage their discouraging season and build towards the future, or will the Spurs stay the course and pursue a fruitless battle for a probable first-round date with the Los Angeles Lakers?
I realize this game already happened, but I’ll be 100% honest here; I would be lying if I told Spurs fans I thought San Antonio would leave last night with another win on their record after losing Dejounte Murray to a calf strain.
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis dominated the Silver and Black all season long, and I fully expected them to have a field day with a bottom ten defense in the league. While Doncic was up to his usual stat-stuffing shenanigans, his partner in crime posted his second dud in as many games.
Derrick White rose to the occasion, and LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 24 points in his return from a six-game injury absence. Even Rudy Gay and Marco Belinelli looked rejuvenated in the nationally televised TNT broadcast.
Verdict: Loss (WRONG)
Mar 13: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets
The good guys blew a 23-point third-quarter lead in their first matchup with the Nuggets this season. Their implosion was eerily similar to a loss they suffered at the hands of the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs a year ago, and the two franchises are headed in opposite directions.
Considering they faltered with a mostly healthy roster intact, I have little faith in their ability to pull off an upset over the third-place Nuggets with a banged-up rotation. Despite a couple of days to rest up, there’s little hope to contain Nikola Jokic if an ailed Aldridge is the only adequate big man to throw at him.
Mar 14: San Antonio Spurs vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
The 19-45 Karl-Anthony Townsless Timberwolves will probably be the Spurs’ best chance at securing an easy dub during this ten-game stretch. Although Minnesota is home to a top ten scoring offense, their bottom-three scoring defense has allowed over 130 points in regulation 11 times this season.
Adding D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley at the trade deadline was a significant step towards a brighter future, but you can’t turn a lottery-bound organization around this late into the year. There’s a reason the T-Wolves are just 4-10 since wheeling and dealing, and San Antonio should take advantage of their ragtag group of inexperienced players and veteran journeymen.
Mar 16: San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
San Antonio will have an opportunity to even the season series when Memphis comes to town for the penultimate meeting between these two teams. The Grizzlies are fighting to retain the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and the Spurs have little more than pride left to fight for.
Ja Morant cooked our guards for 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 14 assists last time out, and the explosive floor general has been a man on a mission since the All-Star break. The Silver and Black will have one less wing defender to pester Morant with Dejounte Murray sidelined.
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas have combined for 31.8 points and 15.9 rebounds per game in 2019-2020, and the towering seven-footers could be in for a huge night against a thin San Antonio frontcourt. Hopefully, Memphis strays away from feeding their big men, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Mar 18: San Antonio Spurs @ New Orleans Pelicans
Spurs versus Zion Williamson was an instant classic in round one, and round two might shape up to be a must-watch game. The Pelicans are closing in on the eighth seed while their prized rookie continues to force his way into the 2020 Rookie of the Year discussion.
Zion torched San Antonio for 22 points in 18 minutes and nearly guided New Orleans to a come from behind victory in his NBA debut. Including that contest, the first overall pick of the 2019 Draft has averaged 23.6 points per game over his first 19 appearances.
The Zion show will be on display when the good guys make the trip to the Big Easy, but Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday, and J.J. Redick round out a formidable starting five. Down Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl, it’s doubtful the Spurs can restrain the Pelican’s high-powered attack.
Mar 20: San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are far from a stable basketball club, but that doesn’t give the Spurs a pass to overlook a seemingly inferior opponent. Underestimating the opposition has cost San Antonio several games, and Chicago’s collection of sporadic young talent can hang with anyone when they get hot.
We’ve already seen Zach Lavine and crew erase a double-digit deficit to defeat the Silver and Black in crunch time, and that was without Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen. Jim Boylen will have a mostly healthy roster at his disposal, and Gregg Popovich’s disciples always give their former mentor trouble.
Mar 22: San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
The Spurs are 2-0 versus the Jazz this season, though I’m not entirely convinced they can extend that streak in their third matchup of the season. While San Antonio has performed well against better competition, they still sport just a 14-24 record against playoff teams.
Utah has no key players on their injury report, and that likely means we’ll see the full force of a healthy trio of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Bojan Bogdanovic. Oh, and they’re one of the deepest teams in the league, so be prepared for the super second unit of Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and Emmanuel Mudiay.
Mar 24: San Antonio Spurs @ Utah Jazz
This tilt will be the same song and dance, but this time the Spurs will hit the road for an away game in Salt Lake City. There’s not much I can say about this game that I didn’t earlier, so here are a few interesting Jazz facts.
Rudy Gobert has put together another spectacular strong case for his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award, and should he take home the honor he would join Dikembe Mutumbo, Ben Wallace, and Dwight Howard as the only three-time winners of that coveted hardware.
At 24.2 points per game, Donovan Mitchell is set to become the sixth player in Jazz history to average at least 24 points per game for an entire season. Pete Maravich, Karl Malone, Adrian Dantley, Truck Robinson, and Spencer Haywood are the other five to do so, and all but Robinson are in the Hall of Fame.
Mar 26: San Antonio Spurs @ Minnesota Timberwolves
We briefly discussed the Timberwolves earlier, and I don’t expect much to change despite Minnesota hosting the Silver and Black for this fixture. While head coach Ryan Saunders is one of the great young minds in the game of basketball, his squad isn’t constructed to win many games.
The good guys aren’t exactly world-beaters themselves, but they’re the superior team on paper, and they should be able to take care of business. At the very least, Minnesota’s league-worst 8-24 home record suggests this is as close to a sure win as the Spurs will get for the remainder of their schedule.
Mar 27: San Antonio Spurs @ Denver Nuggets
Much like with Minnesota and Utah, San Antonio will face Denver twice over the next ten games. I predicted the Silver and Black would fall to the Nuggets earlier, and it’s safe to say the Western Conference powerhouse will sweep the season series in their final encounter.
The Spurs will have little incentive to continue trotting out veterans, and fans may see a lot more of Keldon Johnson, Quinndary Weatherspoon, and Luka Samanic by the time the end of March rolls around. You can add Jakob Poetl and Lonnie Walker IV to that list if they recover from their respective injuries before the season ends.