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Spurs Week in Review: The Spurs found their stroke from beyond the arc

Looking back at Week 4 of the Spurs 2021-22 season.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Week in Review: a new Monday feature that will look back at the week that was for the San Antonio Spurs, see what others are saying, take a look at the week ahead, plus more. Enjoy, and any helpful feedback or suggestions to improve the content is appreciated!

Week 3: Dejounte Murray continued his breakout as “the guy” for the Spurs, but a lack of help meant a winning formula still eluded them.

Last Week: 1-2 (4-9 overall) — 136-117 W vs. Sacramento Kings; 109-123 L vs. Dallas Mavericks; 106-114 L @ Los Angeles Lakers

For those who like to predict the outcome of Spurs games via schedule watching (which is a good way to remain sane these days), the Spurs once again did what most would have predicted: they beat a relatively equal opponent handily at home before losing to two star-studded, superiorly talented teams that are destined for the playoffs.

To start the week, the Spurs finally broke out from the three-point line — a trend that would carry on all week — and maintained Spurs-killer Buddy Hield to beat a Sacramento Kings team that is mostly in the same boat as the Spurs (too talented to completely bottom out, but no quite good enough to make much noise beyond the occasional upset).

Next, they faced the Dallas Mavericks for the third time in 15 days, but unlike the first two meetings — where the Spurs led big at one point in each game and had a chance pull out the victory — they stood little chance this time as the Mavs had Kristaps Porzingis back in the lineup. He’s already a matchup nightmare for the Spurs, and having Jakob Poeltl out in health and safety protocols certainly gave them almost no chance in what turned into a rare second half blowout for the Spurs. (And yet, they still somehow managed to avoid their first 15-point loss of the season, a first since 2015-16.)

Finally, they headed out to Los Angeles, and like earlier this season, the Spurs hung admirably close to the LeBron-less-but-still-star-studded Lakers squad despite a huge talent and size gap, making the big boys in Hollywood work hard and sweat it out.

Despite the predictable outcomes, there were still some positive takeaways from the week. The Spurs got their three-point shooting game going (more on that below), Murray got some help this week from Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell, Thaddeus Young has continued to look better with his new team, and after an extremely rough patch, shots are (very) slowly but surely starting to fall again for Derrick White. We’ll see what all that translates over to this week, in which the schedule says they should go 1-1.

Stat of the week: Three-point shooting

Before their matchup with the Kings, the Spurs were 24th in the league at three-point shooting, hitting just 32.6 percent on a 29th-worst 28.8 attempts per game. In their last three contests, the Spurs shot 47-98 from three, good for 47.8 percent on nearly 33 attempts per game. Considering the season is still young and the sample sizes still relatively small, that was good enough to shoot the Spurs up to 5th in the league for the season at 36.5 percent (although still 29th in attempts). Naturally the Spurs won’t stay that hot from three, but if they can remain around that percentage of even keep improving a bit, their offense will be a lot better off.

In case you missed it

How Thaddeus Young is finding his place in the Spurs offense

Determining how good Dejounte Murray has actually been this season

What to expect from the Spurs next 10 games

Are the Spurs finally turning a corner?

Lonnie Walker has made a subtle but important improvement

What they’re saying: Power Rankings

John Schuhmann, — 24 (Last week: 24)

Pace: 101.4 (7) OffRtg: 107.5 (15) DefRtg: 106.9 (13) NetRtg: +0.6 (13)

The Spurs are somehow 4-9 with a positive point differential (plus-1 over the 13 games). Their 14-point loss to the Mavs on Friday was their worst of the season, but some garbage-time success made it look closer than it really was (they trailed by as many as 27 points). Another fourth-quarter run got them to within two points with less than three minutes to go on Sunday, but they proceeded to allow eight points on the Lakers’ next three possessions.

Dejounte Murray recorded his sixth career triple-double on Sunday, but the loss was another in which the Spurs were killed (minus-17 in 9:48) with him off the floor. It also dropped them to 1-7 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having shot 3-for-13 (23%) on clutch 3s and 8-for-18 (44%) on clutch free throws.

With six guys averaging double-figures (and with Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott and Devin Vassell combining to shoot 32-for-52 from 3-point range), the Spurs scored more than 117 points per 100 possessions in their three games last week. They also allowed more than 117 per 100, perhaps feeling the continued absence of Jakob Poeltl on that end of the floor. With the center having made the trip to L.A., he could return on Tuesday.

ESPN Staff — 26 (last week: 25)

In Wednesday’s win over the Kings, the Spurs had four bench players score at least 15 points. That was the second time that has happened under coach Gregg Popovich, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The bench has been big this year for the Spurs. San Antonio leads the NBA in bench scoring at 41.7 points per game, fueled by second-year forward Devin Vassell, who has scored in double figures in eight of the Spurs’ 13 games. — Andrew Lopez

Sporting News — 24 (last week: 25)

Biggest concern: Is this the backcourt of the future?

This isn’t to question Dejounte Murray, who is having a Most Improved Player of the Year caliber season averaging 18.1 points, 7.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game, all of which are career-highs.

This question is directed toward Derrick White, who the Spurs signed to a four-year, $73 million extension last December. White has struggled to start the year, averaging just 10.8 points per game while shooting 37.9 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from 3-point range, both of which are career-worst marks. He’s a strong defender which helps his case, but is the 27-year-old the right backcourt mate for Murray to build around for the future? — Kyle Irving

Coming up: Tues. 11/16 @ Los Angeles Clippers (8-5); Thurs. 11/18 @ Minnesota Timberwolves (4-8)

It’s a short week with just two games as the Spurs cap off a three-game road trip, beginning with the surging but Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers, followed by a winnable one in Minnesota. Hopefully somewhere in there Poeltl — who is back with the team from COVID protocols but is working himself back into shape — will return, and if not maybe he will after the three-day break that follows.