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What to expect from the Spurs’ next 10 games

Can San Antonio regain some ground in the Western Conference after digging themselves in a hole to begin the season?

San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

The Spurs are now a disappointing 3-7 after beginning their 2021-2022 season with a schedule that included matchups against bonafide playoff teams and lottery locks alike. Although San Antonio consistently brought a competitive fire into each game, this young roster failed to finish what they started on several occasions.

Besides an encouraging crunchtime victory over the shorthanded Bucks in which they smothered Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Silver and Black struggled to close out winnable contests. And with an anemic half-court offense, it’s no wonder why they couldn’t efficiently score the ball when things slowed down against set defenses.

Despite a less than ideal start for San Antonio, they have been a better club than their 13th place record probably suggests. The Spurs are among the league leaders in a handful of defensive categories. And if not for a massive slump from Derrick White, they could very well be a pleasantly surprising 7-3 instead of sitting near the bottom of the standings.

We’re finally starting to get a better idea of how this rendition of the Spurs functions after a ten-game sample size. And we’ll continue to learn about this rendition of the team as head coach Gregg Popovich tinkers with the rotations. So, without further ado, let’s dive into San Antonio’s next ten games and how they stack up against their competition.

Nov. 10: San Antonio Spurs vs. Sacramento Kings

The Kings have slowly climbed towards competency over the last couple of seasons, and they finally have a roster capable of giving any franchise a run for their money. They may only be 5-6, but all of their losses have been close, and most of them have come at the hands of title contenders.

Harrison Barnes has emerged as a late-bloomer, averaging a career-high 22.5 points per game and shouldering the offensive load as De’Aaron Fox struggles to find his footing early on. And if their star floor general finds his rhythm in San Antonio, the Spurs could be in for a long night.

While Sacramento isn’t the most talented team in the league, their depth is massively underrated. Don’t forget about budding two-way wing Tyrese Haliburton, long-range sharpshooter Buddy Heild, interior anchor Richaun Holmes, or first-year defensive menace Davion Mitchell.

Verdict: Loss

Nov. 12: San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks

San Antonio has already faced their I-35 rival a couple of times early into the season, dropping both matchups in distinct yet equally heartbreaking ways. The Mavericks seem to have their number, and they’ve dispatched the good guys without the services of Kristaps Porzingis.

Luka Doncic has given Gregg Popovich and company fits since he entered the league. However, his All-Star sidekick has dominated them to the tune of 26.3 points on unbelievably efficient 57/44/92 shooting splits over their three meetings a year ago.

Head coach Jason Kidd took full advantage of the glaring height disparity between Dallas and San Antonio last time these divisional foes met. With no timetable for the return of Jakob Poeltl, the Silver and Black might be in for another heavy dosage of Boban Marjanović.

Verdict: Loss

Nov. 14: San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers handed San Antonio an all-too-familiar late-game loss as the superstar pairing of Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis catapulted Los Angeles past the Spurs in overtime. However, the rematch between these storied franchises could look a lot different this go-round.

While LeBron James, Kendrick Nunn, Wayne Ellington, and Talen Horton-Tucker sat out last time, they could be ready to go for this one. And since a mostly-healthy Spurs team struggled to put away the banged-up Lakers in October, that’s not exactly good news for this now shorthanded squad.

That said, head coach Frank Vogel could have a few strategic decisions to make. If San Antonio secures an early lead, there’s a chance Los Angeles waves the white flag to save their older legs for a SEGABABA with the red-hot Chicago Bulls the next night.

Verdict: Loss

Nov. 16: San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Clippers

Expectations for the Clippers understandably began slipping when news broke that Kawhi Leonard might miss the entire season after going under the knife to repair a partially torn ACL. Although the Western Conference powerhouse stumbled to a 1-4 start, they’ve since recovered.

Behind the spectacular play of Paul George, Los Angeles has gotten back on track and strung together five straight wins. The seven-time All-Star is quickly re-establishing himself among the premier two-way forces in the NBA, leading his team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.

Despite lacking a genuine second option, the Clippers have seen Reggie Jackson, Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac, Terrence Mann, Luke Kennard, and more recently, Isaiah Hartenstein increase their production to help keep Los Angeles afloat without The Klaw.

Verdict: Loss

Nov. 18: San Antonio Spurs @ Minnesota Timberwolves

A tilt with the Timberwolves certainly feels like the most winnable contest for San Antonio over this stretch. Although Minnesota once again appears to be on pace to enter the lottery sweepstakes, the Spurs fans shouldn’t write off this faltering albeit talented group.

For all their struggles to covert their tantalizing skills into victories, these young pups have been highly competitive more nights than not. Headlined by the high-scoring troika of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell, the Wolves always have a chance to detonate.

Hopefully, the Silver and Black learned their lesson about underestimating a bottom-of-the-barrel franchise when they dropped another nail-biter on the road at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Time to take care of business and put away a beatable opponent.

Verdict: Win

Nov. 22: San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns

Led by future first-ballot Hall of Famer Chris Paul, bonafide All-Star Devin Booker, and former first overall pick Deandre Ayton, the Suns are an early favorite to contend for a championship. Not only do they possess top-end talent, but they lay claim to a roster full of elite role players.

Unfortunately, the Spurs are lacking in the star department, with Dejounte Murray doing his best to carry the organization with little to no consistent help. Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, and Lonnie Walker IV could come around by the time we reach this game, but that’s asking a lot.

Even if San Antonio succeeds in locking down CP3, Book, and Ayton, the supporting cast of Mikal Bridges, Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, Jae Crowder, and Cameron Johnson often find themselves in a position to score with all the attention the previously mentioned trio commands.

Verdict: Loss

Nov. 24: San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks

Following a cinderella run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Atlanta has been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA despite returning most of their core pieces. Regardless, Trae Young remains an elite scorer and facilitator who can turn the tide of a game in the snap of a finger.

While the Hawks may be the victim of a case of too many mouths to feed and too few touches to go around, it’s their horrible defense that has cost them games. Per Synergy, they have allowed the second-highest scoring efficiency in the NBA (1.025 PPP), and the Spurs should be salivating.

This matchup is a perfect opportunity for San Antonio’s hapless half-court offense to build some momentum, though they’ll still have to put forth the effort on the other end. There’s a reason PATFO pursued John Collins so heavily this summer, and he’s not the only player they’ll have to contain.

Verdict: Loss

Nov. 26: San Antonio Spurs vs. Boston Celtics

Former Spurs assistant Ime Udoka has started his first head coaching gig in the NBA by losing three overtime outings on his way to a 4-6 record. As if that wasn’t enough, recent comments from Marcus Smart have sent the media into a frenzy over the future of this historic Celtics franchise.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have bloomed into borderline superstars for Boston, yet they haven’t quite learned how to elevate their teammates. While they combine for a sturdy 49.2 points per game, their contributions alone aren’t nearly enough to flip the script of their wayward season.

Keeping that in mind, Tatum is more than capable of putting together an offensive explosion that can push a team past the finish line on any given night. The 23-year-old dropped 60 on the Spurs as Boston erased a 31-point deficit a year ago, and San Antonio doesn’t want any Deja Vu.

Verdict: Win

Nov. 29: San Antonio Spurs vs. Washington Wizards

The Wizards are on pace to win 57 games this season, and while that isn’t a likely outcome, they have been demonstrably better than they were last season. Per Synergy, Washington boasts the tenth-most efficient offense and fifth-most efficient defense.

Their drastic improvements are primarily thanks to a front office that was willing to move on from the awkward coupling of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal in favor of acquiring more complementary players. So far, this revamped roster has exceeded expectations.

Bradley Beal is still the engine that drives their high-octane attack. But Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, and Spencer Dinwiddie have injected life into the offense as secondary and tertiary options. Defeating the Wizards won’t be a walk in the park, especially as the underdog.

Verdict: Loss

Dec. 2: San Antonio Spurs @ Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard is in the middle of perhaps the worst shooting slump of his career, yet the Trail Blazers have overcome his slow start, maintaining the eighth-best offense in the NBA. The six-time All-Star has nearly a month to get right, and if he does, that could spell trouble for San Antonio.

CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and Anfernee Simons have picked up the slack for Lillard. With Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Devin Vassell, the Spurs are well equipped to handle any backcourt the league has to offer, and they’ll need their elite perimeter defenders to rise to the occasion.

The one scenario San Antonio wants to avoid is ending up in a tight game with the Blazers. Portland has a pair of elite closers in Dame and CJ, who scored a combined 222 clutch points on 52.2% shooting last season. As for the Spurs, they’re still figuring out how to put away opponents down the stretch.

Verdict: Win

Record: 3-7 (6-14 Overall)