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Power Rankings - Week 5: Consistency is the key to Success

And the Spurs are still looking for that key.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Why does a player shoot 100 free throws in a row after practice? They use these repetitive routines to help establish muscle memory and develop consistency in their shots - to get better. Consistency has been an issue for the 2020-2021 San Antonio Spurs. They will have one or two games of aggressive offense and shut down defense, then in the next game come out sluggish and unable to cover anyone. One game the vets are shooting lights out and crutch in the final minutes of a close game, and in the next you get them combining for 10 points. This week’s games are perfect examples of the lack of consistency, even within a game, and it’s impact on their record.

Week 5: The momentum from the win against the Rockets helped the Silver and Black to a convincing win against the Portland Trail Blazers and the vets led the way. DeMar DeRozan had a double double, LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 pts, and both Patty Mills and Rudy Gay contributed 21 points each in an incredible performance by the veterans, while rookie Devin Vassell made some important contributions on defense.

But that level of performance didn’t carry over to the game against the Golden State Warriors two nights later. The Spurs youth movement has had some impressive games, but when the vets and young guns both under-perform, it leads to blowout losses. Versus the Warriors, DeRozan, Aldridge, Mills and Gay combined for 36 points, while Lonnie Walker IV, Devin Vassell, and Keldon Johnson contributed only 18. The one bright spot was Dejounte Murray who shined with 22 pts, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals. As one writer at Pounding the Rock noted, “The Spurs aren’t broken, just unfinished.” Continuing with the theme of inconsistency, the Spurs fell into the old habit of digging themselves into a deep hole against the Dallas Mavericks. While the Silver and Black worked hard to rally, they ultimately fell short because of the inconsistent play of the young guys and Dejounte Murray’s sprained ankle in the first quarter.

On Sunday night, the Spurs met the protocol-ed (is that a word, if not, it should be) Washington Wizards and blew them out. For a moment, it looked like they were playing down to the opponent again and started the game digging a hole again, but the bench quickly brought the game back under control. Another triple double from Dejounte Murray, a lights out game from Patty Mills, and some stellar defense from Jakob Poeltl, Walker and Vassell (who together contributed 7 steals) led to a win.

Last week: 2-2 (9-8) — 125-104 @ Trail Blazers; 121-99 @ Warriors (loss); 122-117 vs Mavericks (loss); 121-101 vs Wizards

This week: 1/25 @ New Orleans Pelicans; 1/27 vs Boston Celtics; 1/29 vs Denver Nuggets; 1/30 vs Memphis Grizzlies

Andrew Lopez, ESPN - 13 (Last Week: 13)

Good luck predicting who is going to lead the Spurs in scoring on a given night. In the past seven games, San Antonio has had six different leaders: Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, DeMar DeRozan (twice), LaMarcus Aldridge, Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills. The 24-year-old Murray also is coming off his second career triple-double on Sunday (11 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists). It was almost identical to Murray’s other triple-double, which came the day after Christmas (11 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in a win over Toronto. — Lopez

Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports - 9 (Last Week: 11)

San Antonio beat the Blazers and Wizards this week while losing to the Warriors and Mavericks. Six Spurs averaged double figures for the week, with nobody reaching the 20-point-per-game threshold. Rudy Gay and Patty Mills have been spark plugs off the bench, each averaging 15.3 points this week, while Gay shot 53 percent from 3-point range. LaMarcus Aldridge averaged just over 25 minutes per game this week, as Gregg Popovich continues to experiment with different combinations.

John Schuhmann, - 15 (Last Week: 14)

Mid-range shots account for just 20% of the Spurs’ field goal attempts, down from 32% five years ago. But they still lead the league in total mid-range attempts for a third straight season. And over the last two weeks, they’ve made more than half of their shots from between the paint and the 3-point line. LaMarcus Aldridge has begun to find a rhythm after a rough start to the season, and he’s just one of four Spurs who’ve shot better than 55% on 17 or more mid-range attempts over the last seven games.

Two of those four — Rudy Gay and Patty Mills — are reserves, and the Spurs continue to be driven by their bench. After it registered a +17 in less than 11 minutes in their win over the Wizards on Sunday, the Spurs have outscored their opponents by 16.6 points per 100 possessions in 149 total minutes with their group of four regular reserves — Gay, Mills, Jakob Poeltl and Devin Vassell — on the floor. The rookie (Vassell) scored a career-high 14 points on Sunday, making four of his six 3-point attempts.

The Spurs have been pretty inconsistent on both ends of the floor. After allowing the Warriors and Mavs to score more than 119 points per 100 possessions on Wednesday and Friday, they held the Wizards under a point per possession to climb back into the top 10 defensively. The five-game homestand that starts Wednesday is their longest of the first-half schedule and includes what could be a critical two-game series against the Grizzlies.

Mo Dahkil, Bleacher Report - 12 (Last Week: 11)

Not many teams have as much balanced scoring as the Spurs. They have seven players in double figures, led by DeMar DeRozan and his 20.1 points per game. Patty Mills may be a dark-horse candidate for Sixth Man of the Year if his 42.5 percent shooting from three holds up.

San Antonio ended the week going 2-2 and took advantage of a depleted Washington Wizards team. The Spurs are continuing to get out in transition and had 20 fast-break points against Washington.

Every year, people predict this will be the end of the Spurs era, and they continue to chug along. Seventeen games into the season, they are right in the thick of the West with their young talent and veteran presences.

Michael Shapiro, - 19 (Last Week: 13)

Dejounte Murray’s ankle appears just fine after a triple double against the Wizards on Sunday, a performance that marked perhaps the height of his season. It’s been another inconsistent offensive campaign thus far for Murray as he struggles with his jump shot, but the Washington product can’t afford to be reticent. Murray’s physical gifts are a sight to behold. His wingspan is truly jarring, and he’s a blur going end-to-end in transition. San Antonio’s ceiling is markedly higher with Murray as a reliable offensive force. If he can’t become that in future seasons, it’s hard to see San Antonio rising as a contender for the Western Conference crown.

Kevin O’Conner, - ?? (Last Week: 19)

Not published yet.

The professional rankings for the Spurs pretty much stayed consistent (except for Sports Illustrated, what’s up with that?). Do you agree with these rankings or see the lack of consistency with the play of the veterans and youth movement as a problem? Do you see the possibility for improvement? Let us know what you think in the comments, Pounders.