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Power Rankings - Week 20: Spurs youth movement is getting some court time

Whether it’s because the playoffs are moving further away or because PATFO and the coaching staff are trying something new, Spurs fans are seeing more of the youngsters.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

According to people better at math than me, the San Antonio Spurs still have a chance to make the playoffs this year. But if the Silver and Black continues to have weeks like the past one, that chance will evaporate in a hurry. Early in the week, Spurs fans got to see Drew Eubanks start in place of an injured LaMarcus Aldridge. Then Keldon Johnson played some extended minutes in a win and a loss. Then Luka Samanic and Quinndary Weatherspoon saw the court versus the Nets. Either Gregg Popovich has run out of things to try, or he’s kicking the tires on next year’s model.

Week 20: After going the majority of the season with no one on the injury report, it’s suddenly crowded. LaMarcus has been out several games with a sore shoulder and then Jakob Poeltl ends up with a sprained MCL. The big man part of the bench is getting sparse. Trey Lyles, Drew Eubanks and Rudy Gay tried to take up the slack. Lyles had a great game and along with Patty Mills tried to will the Spurs to win, but the Pacers came back in the second half ready to exploit the weakness down low to fend off the Spurs. But there was one amazing highlight in the game - an incredible dunk by Lonnie Walker IV. The Spurs then took off on a three game road trip, stopping first to meet the Charlotte Hornets. After the demoralizing loss to the Pacers, the Spurs fought for this game, going to the wire for a one-point win. Dejounte Murray shined and Keldon Johnson saw 15 minutes of play in Tim Duncan’s first start at head coach. While he had some rough spots, Johnson had a decent night and Spurs fans got a chance to see the future.

Alas, the momentum wasn’t meant to last. The Good Guys were beat down by the Brooklyn Nets, but Luka Samanic and Quinndary Weatherspoon got to see more than 10 minutes each on the floor. Samanic had a few rebounds and assists, but zero points. Weatherspoon didn’t do much either. In the end, the lack of depth at center is what doomed the Spurs, who were out-rebounded 52 to 38 in the loss. In the final game of the road trip, the Spurs came in to Cleveland hoping to regain some mojo and win over the 14th place in the Eastern Conference Cavaliers. But the Spurs only consistency this season again reared its ugly head: starting slow and getting down by a bunch. They managed to climb out of huge hole, but it wasn’t enough and the Spurs lost in overtime.

Last week: 1-3 (26-36) — 116-111 vs. Pacers (loss); 104-103 @ Hornets (win); 139-120 @ Nets (loss); 132-129 @ Cavaliers (loss)

This week: Tuesday, 3/10 vs. Dallas Mavericks; Friday, 3/13 vs. Denver Nuggets; Saturday, 3/14 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Tim MacMahon, ESPN - 20 (Last Week: 18)

The Spurs are on track for their first losing season since 1996-97, when they went 20-62, with Gregg Popovich taking over as head coach in early December. The Spurs have won at least 47 games in every season since the lockout 22 years ago.

Michael Shapiro, - 21 (Last Week: 20)

Welcome to San Antonio, Luka Samanic. The No. 19 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft made his NBA debut on Friday, and while he went 0-4 from the field, Gregg Popovich would be prudent to give the young Croatian at least some cursory minutes over the next month. As the Spurs fade from playoff contention, the youngsters should continue to see increased playoff time.

Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports - 21 (Last Week: 17)

The Spurs’ only win this week came by a single point in Charlotte, and Sunday’s overtime loss to the Cavs really hurts. LaMarcus Aldridge missed all four games, and the scoring was evenly dispersed with seven players averaging double figures for the week. San Antonio is still only four games back of the Grizzlies in the loss column, but it has some work to do.

John Schuhmann, - 20 (Last Week: 18)

The Spurs’ overtime defeat in Cleveland on Sunday, in which they put the Cavs on the line for a season-high 45 free throw attempts, was loss No. 36 on the season. So, with 20 games to go, they’ve lost more games than they have in any season since they drafted Tim Duncan in 1997. And now it’s just a matter of time before their 22-year playoff streak officially comes to an end.

Even without LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs’ offense been good enough over the last five games. They’ve shot 39% from 3-point range and seven guys have averaged double-figures over that stretch. But their defense, against which the Nets’ 22nd-ranked offense had two quarters of more than 40 points on Friday, has dropped into the bottom five for the first time since Week 7. The Spurs ranked 20th defensively last season (after six straight seasons in the top four) and they’ve still seen the league’s fifth biggest increase in points allowed per 100 possessions.

Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report - 20 (Last Week: 21)

Tim Duncan should retire again, this time from coaching. Or, less drastically, he should refuse to occupy the big boy chair ever again. That way, he’d preserve his perfect 1-0 record.

The Spurs fell by 17 points to the lowly Hornets in Duncan’s fill-in effort for Gregg Popovich but rallied back and held on for a 104-103 victory behind Dejounte Murray’s 21 points.

Said Duncan of Murray, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News: “His confidence and aggression are going up. They are going in the right direction, and he’s big for us. He’s going to have to be big for us. He needs experience, he needs time on the floor, and he needs situational experience. He’s going to be a good one.”

That means a lot coming from the coach with the highest winning percentage in league history.

The Duncan-as-head coach experience distracted from an otherwise unimpressive week for the Spurs, who dropped a 139-120 contest to a Brooklyn Nets team mere hours from firing its head coach Friday night.

What do you want to see, Pounders? More of the young guys (to give us hope for the future or to try something knew to try and get to the playoffs)? Let us know in the comments.