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Pretend Power Rankings: Week 23 - Spurs make up some ground then lose it

Was it too good to be true?

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Continuation of our “Pretend Power Rankings” series in service of all Spurs fans out there. I know you all need something to get through this time.

With this roller coaster of a season starting to wind down, no one was ever sure if the San Antonio Spurs were going to keep up the tradition of the last 22 years of making the playoffs. This week the Spurs gave us all some hope of keeping that tradition and then dashed it away.

Week 23: The week started with a great win against the Utah Jazz in the second game of the home-home series. The Silver and Black featured lots of ball sharing with flashes of the Beautiful Game from the new generation of Spurs. Dejounte Murray had a high of 12 assists and 6 steals and Derrick White had 6 blocks Lonnie Walker IV continued his exhibition of his athleticism with two monster dunks and some strong play throughout. But it wasn’t only the youngsters who played well. DeMar DeRozan went off for 36 points, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 and 2 threes. Trey Lyles was hot from downtown, hitting 6 threes in a row. And in a sight for sore eyes, Patty Mills went into Tazmanian Devil mode grabbing 4 steals. The 8th win pulled the Spurs even with the Memphis Grizzlies for 8th in the Western Conference.

But in a bad flashback, the next game’s loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves pushed the Spurs back out of playoff range. The good guys couldn’t hit the side of a barn all night (throwing enough bricks to build a large house), but the defense kept them in the game. Keldon Johnson had a good night both on offense and defense (he was one of the few who seemed to find the inside of the basket). But the Spurs couldn’t hit the last shot to win the game. The SEGABABA against the Denver Nuggets wasn’t pretty either. The Spurs came out sluggish, with offense and defense that were sloppy and slow. Derrick White had a great second half (reminiscent of the Nugget playoff series from last year), and he almost single-handedly pulled out a win, but he couldn’t get enough support. The other standout was Drew Eubanks who played lights out, but only for limited minutes. Many of us, myself included, believed it was done. There couldn’t be any light at the end of this tunnel. But don’t ever count the Silver and Black out. In the last game of the week at Golden State was a beaut. Of course, it didn’t look that way at first. After a rough start in the first quarter, the boys seemed to get everything back together. Murray started the 2nd quarter with a steal and dunk, and that energized everyone else. White had 5 steals, LMA and DmDr both had 10 assists. The young guns of Walker, White, and Murray all had scoring highs.

Last week: 2-2 (35-38) — 129-95 @ Jazz; 110-89 @ Timberwolves (loss); 102-101 @ Nuggets (loss); 129-99 @ Warriors

This week: Tuesday, 3/31 @ Sacramento Kings; Friday, 4/3 vs. Golden State Warriors; Sunday, 4/5 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Tom McMohan, EPSN - 16 (Last Week: 16)

The whole league is buzzing about Gregg Popovich. I mean, how did he even get an actual horse into an NBA practice facility and did he just assume that it wouldn’t cause a scene? Has he always been doing stuff like this and we just haven’t noticed? Maybe the notoriously secretive Spurs organization have just been keeping it hidden from us all these years, but the basketball world is left wondering whether he’s finally coming out of his shell or if he just losing his mind.

Bizarre motivational tools aside, the Spurs continue to march back into playoff contention despite a few bumps along the way this past week. Popovich is apparently imploring his charges to “take the reins” and it’s hard to argue with the results.

Mickey Shipora, - ?? (Last Week: 17)

That sharp sound you hear? It could be a refs’ whistle somewhere in the distance calling a foul on Drew Eubanks (averaging an impressive 7.6 fouls per 36 minutes over the last 10 games), or it could be us backing the truck just a bit on the Spurs’ twilight run after losses to the Wolves and Nuggets revealed some of their familiar warts.

The last few weeks may have felt like a fever dream for a San Antonio team whose hopes looked all but lost, but to some of us watching from afar it’s felt like the great simulation correcting itself: 8 straight games won to make up for the 8-game losing streak earlier in the year. The race for the 8th seed already had the makings of a fun subplot for the end of the NBA season, and the Spurs have added their own blend of spices to the mix.

Holin Card-Wenninger, BCS Sports - 15 (Last Week: 16)

The Spurs finally came back to earth in their losses to the Timberwolves and Nuggets, ending their eight-game winning streak, but they have still won 9 of their last 11 while looking like the Spurs everyone expected, all while the youth movement has continued to assert itself. You just can’t count out the Spurs no matter how tempting they make it.

Johann Schumacher, - 14 (Last Week: 15)

The Spurs had a chance to take sole possession of 8th place on Thursday night against the lottery bound Timberwolves and responded with one of their worst shooting nights of the season. The Spurs were outscored 42-9 from behind the three point line en route to a painful loss that may sting even more come April 15.

Despite stumbling against the Wolves, the Spurs now rank 10th defensively since the All Star break. They’re leading the league in steals for the month of March (10.4 per 100 possessions) and have produced the 2nd most points off turnovers (20.1 per 100 possessions).

Rant Hugs, Bleecher Report - 19 (Last Week: 16)

Just when I was starting to believe in this year’s ragtag feelgood gang that is the 2019-2020 Spurs, they returned to Earth faster than E.T.’s real parents when they found out where they had left him. They had their run, which you always expected Gregg Popovich could somehow conjure out of them, but I think they’re more done than my grandma’s pot roast now. Let’s all say goodbye to the Spurs playoff streak, it was great while it lasted.

The Spurs gave us a scare this week, but by the end of the week, they seemed they were ready to refocus for the final push. How do you feel with the last three weeks looming? Can the Spurs pull off a miracle?