As I mentioned last week, math wizards asserted that the San Antonio Spurs still had a chance to keep the playoff streak alive and this week’s games definitely helped. Some impressive returns from injury from LaMarcus Aldridge, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV helped, but so did the lineup moves Pop made (amazing what feeling like there is no other choice but to be loose and free can do to the imagination and willingness to be daring).
Week 21: After losing to the Mavericks at home in heartbreaking fashion at the end of February, the Spurs, with the return of LaMarcus Aldridge, played on Tuesday with a very different result. The Silver and Black may have had the return of LMA, but the loss of Lonnie Walker IV to a lower leg injury and Dejounte Murray to a calf strain had many Spurs fans thinking that this game would be a repeat. But they were wrong. Derrick White came into the starting line-up in place of Murray and several of the guys played tough to hold on and win convincingly. Seven Spurs were in double figures and defensively, the whole team contributed garnering 11 steals and 10 blocks.
Many worried the two days off would detract from the momentum, but the outcome of Friday night’s game against the Nuggets proved otherwise. The final score doesn’t tell the whole story though. For the first 10 minutes, it looked to many (myself included) that the Spurs were backsliding into their inconsistent offense and spotty defense, (even with the continuation of the new starting five of Aldridge, Trey Lyles, Murray, DeMar DeRozan and White) but when Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson checked in for the Spurs with 2 minutes left in the quarter, the whole feeling changed. Lonnie turned on his full Skywalker mode going for two massive dunks in the first half and Keldon became a massive defensive pest grabbing 3 steals (one of which turned into a poster-like dunk for Derrick White while the other two led to uncontested three pointers for Lyles and LMA). And the game just got better from there.
After winning two in a row, the fear was that the SEGABABA would end the streak. The Timberwolves were coming to town on a streak of their own (losing all four their last 4 games). The 2019-2020 Spurs had been unable to take down the teams they should be able to. Nothing to fear on Saturday night as the Spurs took care of business in grand fashion. The entire starting lineup scored in double figures. Mills, Walker, Johnson and Forbes provided sparks off the bench also to the tune of double figures. Murray and White had double doubles (points and rebounds for Murray, points and assists for White) while both also flirted with triple doubles (Murray had 8 steals and White had 6 blocks). This three game win streak is the third one for the Spurs this season.
Last week: 3-0 (29-36) — 119-109 vs. Mavericks; 105-102 vs. Nuggets; 112-92 vs. Timberwolves
Tom McMohan, EPSN - 19 (Last Week: 20)
The Spurs have the pieces to do some damage and simply haven’t been able to put them together consistently all season. A recent flurry of injuries only exacerbated the problem, but a week like this shows what they can do when playing with a full deck. The questions we’re left with: Will they keep it up over the next few weeks and, even if they do, is there enough time left on the clock for it to matter?
Mickey Shipora, SL.com - 17 (Last Week: 21)
Welcome back, LaMarcus Aldridge. The long-two-loving Longhorn has been in his wheelhouse after recovering from an ill-timed shoulder injury, and the Spurs must be happy to have him back. I’ve been calling this team my Katy Perry All-Stars all year — they’re hot and they’re cold; they’re yes, then they’re no; they’re in, then they’re out. But San Antonio’s very much out of the playoff picture right now unless they can tap into another Katycat classic: the Eye of the Tiger.
Holin Card-Wenninger, BCS Sports - 17 (Last Week: 21)
The Spurs are gaining some steam at home with a three-game winning streak aligning perfectly with the return of LaMarcus Aldridge. San Antonio is inching closer to that 8th seed in the West but still has some work to do, beginning on Monday night against the team that currently holds it: the Memphis Grizzles. A win will tie the season series.
Johann Schumacher, BAN.com - 19 (Last Week: 20)
The Spurs’ Friday night victory over the Nuggets marked just the 3rd time all season the team has logged back to back victories over playoff bound teams (out of 20 tries). They’re now 3-0 since LaMarcus Aldridge returned from a stretch of 6 missed games during which the Spurs went 2-4 and were outscored by 31 points.
The difference has come on defense. Aldridge is averaging 5 blocks a game since his return and the team as a whole has put up at least 10 blocks and 10 steals in each contest. It’s too little, too late for their own playoff hopes, but the Spurs play several teams still jockeying for position and none will look forward to playing a lottery team more talented than its record that has suddenly found a defensive identity.
Keep an eye on the trio of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Keldon Johnson. These three have only played 20 minutes together, but opponents are turning the ball over on more than 20% of the possessions when they share the court.
Rant Hugs, Bleecher Report - 18 (Last Week: 20)
The Spurs haven’t looked like themselves for most of the season, and this week was a continuation of the trend, but maybe in a little bit of a different direction. The defense is finally starting to gel, and Dejounte Murray is finally starting to look like the prototypical two-way player that the Spurs thought they were getting when they signed him to a big contract this summer, outplaying Donovan Mitchell (who definitely doesn’t have COVID-19 in this simulation) in the game against the Nuggets. Derrick White’s newfound confidence in shooting threes has opened up the paint for DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range game.
This is a squad that is starting to play as well as any of the teams competing for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference bracket, but they have a lot of ground to make up to catch the Grizzlies and fend off the Pelicans, Kings, and Blazers. Can they do it? Probably not, but anything can happen in this crazy league. Stay tuned.
The Spurs pulled off a three game win streak right when everyone believed it might not be possible to make the playoffs. What do you think, Pounders, is there still hope? I don’t know about y’all, but I’m beginning to get a glimmer back. Tell us what you think in the comments.
*Disclaimer: As you all know, the NBA decided on Wednesday, March 11 to suspend the season due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. What you read here is a fan’s dream of how the season could have played out based on the Spurs’ performance in their last game before the suspension of play. The analysts are fictitious as are their write-ups and rankings.