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Spurs Week in Review: Rotating disappointing losses and satisfying wins

Looking back at Week 8 of Spurs 2021-22 season.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-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 7: The Spurs surge for biggest winning streak since 2018-19

Week 8: 2-3 (10-16 overall, 12th in West) — 104-108 L @ Phoenix Suns; 109-121 L vs. New York Knicks; 123-111 W vs. Denver Nuggets; 112-127 L vs. Denver Nuggets; 112-97 W vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Entering Week 8 on a four-game winning streak, the Spurs were instantly faced with the daunting task of keeping it going, and not just because they would be forced to beat the best team in the league for a fifth straight win; they were also looking at the start of five games in seven nights. Similar to their first meeting with the Suns, the Spurs admirably hung around and made them sweat out the victory before starting a five-game homestand that can only be described as inconsistent (so far).

The Spurs returned home the next night to face a well-rested Knicks squad that already present the Spurs with a serious size disadvantage. The home team was unable to muster up enough energy to keep up as the Knicks, which was only compounded by the fact that they were white hot from three all night, hitting 18-38. To add on to disappointment, Keldon Johnson was lost to an ankle sprain that looked pretty serious after landing on Jakob Poeltl’s foot. Although he briefly tried to return, he just as quickly left again.

After that disappointing setback, the Spurs began a miniseries — something that was not kind to them last season — against the Nuggets, who feature reigning MVP Nikola Jokic but are also down two starters in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Jr. While they didn’t necessarily dominate, the Spurs led the first outing wire-to-wire and had an answer every time Denver got close, satisfyingly led by their three first round picks from 2016-2018, who combined for 67 points on the evening.

Disappointment returned again in the second game of miniseries, as two nights later the Nuggets came back out with a vengeance, thoroughly dismantling the Spurs in the first half for a blowout loss that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated. On the bright side, Johnson made a surprisingly quick return after missing just one game to that sprain that looked like it could have taken several weeks, and the lack of playing time for the starters meant they had plenty of energy the next night to put away the Pelicans with a dominant fourth quarter, thanks in large part to the play of Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl.

Stat of the Week: Keldon Johnson — Three-point shooter

After a horrible first ten games of the season from above the arc (3-22 for 13.6%) it only took Johnson 15 games to shoot himself into the top ten of the league as a three-point shooter. From Game 11 and on, he has shot 58% from three while attempting 3.3 per game, including 6-8 since (somewhat miraculously) returning from his ankle injury, pushing him up to 7th in the league at 44.4 %. (Just ahead of Patty Mills!) Obviously he can’t be expected to keep shooting threes at a 58% clip — no one can, not even Steph Curry — but if he can maintain being a 40% shooter from three, it will open up the offense both for him and his teammates a lot more.

In case you missed it

Dejounte Murray nominated for Western Conference Player of the Week

Why Spurs fans should root for wins and not worry about draft odds

PtR Mailbag: Trade Rumors and Other Questions

The San Antonio Spurs are beginning to approach respectability

What they’re saying

John Schuhmann, — 23 (Last week: 23)

Pace: 99.9 (8) OffRtg: 108.3 (18) DefRtg: 108.2 (14) NetRtg: +0.2 (15)

The Spurs had some gas left in the tank at the end of their five-game week, outscoring the Pelicans, 29-15, in the fourth quarter on Sunday. The offense was clicking, with the Spurs looking very much like a team that ranks in the top six in both ball and player movement. Among 283 players who’ve logged at least 300 total minutes this season, the Spurs have five of the top 10 (including top-ranked Doug McDermott) in regard to average speed on offense, according to Second Spectrum tracking.

The Spurs weren’t so good earlier in games earlier in the week. Over their three losses (to Phoenix, New York and Denver), they were outscored by 60 points (195-135) over the second and third quarters. For the season, the Spurs are a top-three team in both the first (plus-9.8 points per 100 possessions) and fourth quarters (plus-13.6) and a bottom-three team in both the second (minus-10.5) and third (minus-11.3), which is obviously wacky. The differential has been more than twice as big on defense (15.6 per 100) than on offense (7.0).

Despite the loss to the Knicks on Tuesday, the Spurs still have a winning record (5-4) against the Eastern Conference. Their five-game homestand wraps Wednesday with a visit from the Hornets, and then they head West for a four-game trip that includes an extended stay in L.A.

ESPN Staff — 23 (Last week: 23)

How much has the league changed in the past decade or so? The Spurs are last this season with 29.0 3-point attempts per game. They also were last a season ago with 28.4 attempts. Both numbers would have led by a wide margin over the Rockets’ league-leading 26.6 attempts from the 2013-14 season. — Andrew Lopez

Coming up: Wed. 12/15 vs. Charlotte Hornets; Fri. 12/17 @ Utah Jazz; Sun. 12/19 @ Sacramento Kings

The Spurs get a couple of days off before looking to complete their five-game homestand with a winning record against the Hornets. After that, they will begin another tough four-game road trip out West, beginning with the third best team in the league (and home of one of the toughest road environments): the Jazz, followed by easiest game of the trip against the Kings on what will be the first night of a back-to-back.