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What to expect from the Spurs’ next 10 games

Can San Antonio stay afloat in the cutthroat Western Conference after an erratic 5-5 start to their season?

San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The Spurs are 5-5 after beginning their 2020-2021 campaign with a brutal slate that included six matchups with playoff qualifiers from a season ago. It was an erratic stretch that witnessed San Antonio simultaneously defeat the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center and lose to the last-place Minnesota Timberwolves within the same week.

While their results varied considerably from game to game, inconsistency plagued the Silver and Black from minute to minute and possession to possession. They followed up their first blowout loss of the year with a victory over the Western Conference-leading Clippers, and even then, the good guys barely escaped after blowing a 24-point cushion.

LaMarcus Aldridge missed a handful of contests with knee soreness, and Derrick White promptly rejoined the injury report just under 23 minutes into his season debut. Although their absences created opportunities for others to find minutes within the rotation, San Antonio sorely missed their combination of scoring, experience, and defensive acumen.

Despite some early struggles, the Spurs have seen promising signs from their veterans and young core. Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Lonnie Walker IV have taken significant developmental leaps. Patty Mills has translated his FIBA aggression into Sixth Man of the Year production, and Rudy Gay is in the midst of a defensive renaissance.

My previous predictions about San Antonio’s record after ten games went about as well as I hoped for, with them emerging as neither a postseason contender nor lottery lock. COVID protocols and a condensed schedule have only made the inexact science of educated guessing more difficult, but that won’t stop me from examining what lies ahead for the Spurs.

Jan 12: San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder

Most pundits expected the Thunder to be one of the worst teams in the league this season, so of course, they’ve massively overachieved despite an ostensibly awkward roster configuration.

San Antonio, on the other hand, has been about as good as advertised. The Spurs are playing .500 basketball after an unmerciful opening schedule that saw both resounding wins and embarrassing losses.

Smothering Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should be the key to victory on the final stop of a five-game road trip. But the absence of DeMar DeRozan poses an immense challenge for coach Pop and company.

Verdict: Win

Jan 14: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

NBA teams are a combined 75-78 on their home floor this season, so it isn’t all that surprising San Antonio is 1-3 at the AT&T Center, especially considering COVID-19 has entirely negated the usual advantages of playing in front of 18,581 supportive fans.

Houston hasn’t established the chemistry to live up to their potential, and that may never materialize if they can’t resolve the James Harden drama. The Spurs have a chance to set the tone in their building while the early impact of roster continuity is still on their side.

The philosophical shift of new head coach Stephen Silas has altered the way the Rockets play basketball. Although the offense still runs through Harden, John Wall and Christian Wood have siphoned his touches and added a mostly undiscovered dynamic.

Verdict: Win

Jan 16: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

This second consecutive matchup with Houston will bring San Antonio’s third miniseries of the season to a close, and the Spurs haven’t been too successful in this scenario up to this point (1-3).

Gregg Popovich has a surplus of proficient perimeter defenders to throw at James Harden and John Wall for 48 minutes, though Christian Wood could put the Silver and Black in a predicament.

Usually, back-to-back home games would be a welcome sight for any organization. However, this is no ordinary season, and a familiar venue might not do much for momentum when vacant.

Verdict: Loss

Jan 18: San Antonio Spurs @ Portland Trail Blazers

If you thought San Antonio’s first ten games were an uphill battle, this next stretch of seven contests makes that look like a breeze, as they face two conference finalists and two former MVPs in ten days.

And that includes this trying road matchup with Damian Lillard and the much-improved Trail Blazers who added Robert Covington, Harry Giles, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Jones Jr. to their depth chart.

Portland is 6-4, and that’s with Dame fighting to find a semblance of shooting consistency. Though honestly, with CJ McCollum carrying the scoring load at 28.1 points per game, that slump hasn’t mattered much.

Verdict: Loss

Jan 20: San Antonio Spurs @ Golden State Warriors

It feels as though NBA fans and media alike have already written off the Warriors as playoff contenders after losing Klay Thompson for the season to an untimely Achilles injury during a November workout.

This squad may not resemble the dynasty that terrorized the rest of the league for a half-decade just two years ago, but they’re a dangerous opponent as long as a healthy Steph Curry is on the court.

A rocky start out of the gates has nonetheless earned them sixth-place in the Western Conference, and the Spurs will probably be hoping Golden State won’t find their groove by the time they meet.

Verdict: Loss

Jan 22: San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks

After massive roster turnover brought on by a slew of offseason trades, signings, and cuts, the Mavericks haven’t been able to reproduce the same elite offense that led the NBA in efficiency in 2019-2020.

Dallas can attribute some of their scoring struggles to the injury-induced absence of Kristaps Porgzingis, and it’s scary to think how much better they can become once the All-Star makes his season debut.

The San Antonio Spurs lost two of their three tilts versus their I-35 rival last season, and I’m not sure they’ll have many viable solutions to locking down Luka Doncic with Derrick White on the sidelines.

Verdict: Loss

Jan 24: San Antonio Spurs vs. Washington Wizards

For as talented a tandem as Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook form on paper, there’s no denying the latter of the two has been a disappointment for Washington this season.

A serious ACL injury to starting center Thomas Byrant combined with an entirely underwhelming supporting cast has only amplified their inability to get their superstars on the same page.

The Spurs almost assuredly won’t face a weaker adversary than the Wizards over this ten-game spread, and San Antonio shouldn’t let that trick them into easing their foot off the gas pedal.

Verdict: Win

Jan 25: San Antonio Spurs @ New Orleans Pelicans:

The Spurs squared off against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans in their first SEGABABA of the season, and they’ll once again draw New Orleans for the final leg of another back-to-back on the road.

San Antonio fell short of mounting a 15-point comeback last time these South West Division squads came together, and hopefully, they take care of the Wizards early and save some energy for this one.

Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, and JJ Redick are an intriguing albeit strange cast of characters, and they could challenge for control of the South West Division if they ever mesh.

Verdict: Win

Jan 27: San Antonio Spurs vs. Boston Celtics

Boston sits atop the Eastern Conference Standings while San Antonio hovers around the territory of the recently instated play-in game system, and it’s clear these teams aren’t in the same echelon.

The Celtics lay claim to what has been a top-five duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. And their pair of burgeoning superstars rank fifth and eighth scoring, combining for 53.2 points per game.

And should the Spurs, by some miracle, hold Tatum and Brown in check, the other 53% of Boston’s offense comes from the open looks they create for teammates like Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard.

Verdict: Loss

Jan 29: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic is on pace to become the third player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season, and doing so while posting career-highs in points, rebounds, and assists per game.

Although the Serbian center is playing at an MVP caliber for the Nuggets, Denver and San Antonio hold onto an identical record around a seventh of the way through their regular-season schedules.

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are playing like All-Stars, so don’t be too surprised if the Spurs get outscored in a back-and-forth shootout with the league’s second-most efficient offense.

Verdict: Loss

Record: 4-6 (9-11 overall)