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 8: Rotating disappointing losses and satisfying wins
The Spurs remain a cofounding team, capable pulling off great upsets against surefire losses while not showing up for wins being handed to them on a silver platter. They continued that trend of rotating disappointing losses with satisfying wins this week by following up Sunday’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans with blowout loss to the shorthanded Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The Spurs were caught playing catch up from practically the opening whistle as the Hornets exploded for 10 three-pointers in the first quarter alone. The Spurs were able to cut the early 21-point deficit to single digits a few times but were never able to maintain runs or cut the mistakes enough to come all the way back.
Then, right on trend, the Spurs responded to their latest disappointing loss with perhaps their most satisfying victory of the season. Kicking off a tough four-game road trip out West, they went into the home of the third best team in the conference and one of the toughest road environments in the league and pulled out an improbable victory. After getting down by as much as 17 late in the second quarter, the Spurs outscored the Jazz 41-23 in the third to take the lead. It was a back and forth fourth quarter with eight lead changes, four of which came in a wild closing minute with both teams trading haymakers for the lead. Lonnie Walker ended up winning it for the Spurs with an acrobatic layup over Rudy Gobert, and Donovan Mitchell couldn’t connect on their next two possessions, sealing the victory.
Finally, they closed the week with yet another disappointing loss, this time against a COVID-ravaged Sacramento team. Perhaps still too high from their win in Utah and overlooking their opponent due to their depleted state, the Spurs came out flat against the Kings and got pounced early. The Spurs spent most of the first half struggling to keep within striking distance, and after a strong third quarter briefly got them the lead, a fate they had avoided in their previous meeting against this team came back to bite: Buddy Hield got hot in the fourth quarter, and that was the end to another confounding week of Spurs basketball.
Play of the Week
We’re changing things up a bit from Stat of the Week to Play of the Week, and obviously that goes to Walker for his game winner in Utah. Not only did he take on a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and get some serious hang time to get that shot up, but it was also improvised after the Jazz were able to deny the first option, which was supposed to go through the Spurs’ usual closer, Dejounte Murray.
Also, there’s something else about that shot that stirs the memory. It was very reminiscent of a certain Manu Ginobili game winner in the 2008 Playoffs. Maybe all that training Walker has been doing with the Spurs legend is catching on?
In case you missed it
What they’re saying
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 25 (Last week: 23)
Pace: 99.9 (7) OffRtg: 109.5 (15) DefRtg: 110.0 (21) NetRtg: -0.6 (18)
Keldon Johnson remains a guy who will continually put his head down attack the basket. He still runs himself off of open 3-pointers and he still doesn’t pass much when he attacks. In fact, his pass rate on drives (20.8%, sixth lowest among 140 players with at least 100 total drives) is a tick lower than it was last season (21.2%). But Johnson has been shooting more of late. He’s 15-for-25 from beyond the arc over his last five games and is now 40-for-79 (51%) on catch-and-shoot 3s for the season. That’s the best mark among 192 players with at least 50 catch-and-shoot attempts and up from 35.1% last season.
The Spurs still rank last in the percentage of their shots (32.1%) that have come from 3-point range, which has them rank 14th in effective field goal percentage (52.6%) even though they’re fourth in the percentage of their shots that go through the basket. But their offense hasn’t been the issue as they’ve alternated losses and wins over their last seven games. They rank second offensively (118.3 points scored per 100 possessions) and 29th defensively (120.9 allowed per 100) over that stretch, which has dropped them from 10th to 21st defensively overall.
Three games this week against teams that rank in the bottom 10 on offense are an opportunity to climb back out of the bottom 10 on defense.
ESPN Staff — 25 (Last week: 23)
Dejounte Murray topped the Spurs in scoring on Sunday night. He was the sixth different player to lead the team in points in the past six games, following Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Jakob Poeltl, Bryn Forbes and Keldon Johnson. It also was San Antonio’s fifth consecutive game with a different leading rebounder: Tre Jones, Poeltl, White, Murray and then Johnson on Sunday. — Andrew Lopez
The Spurs continue their West coast swing, completing a back-to-back on Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers before getting a couple days of rest in the same city, and then finish their road trip on Thursday against what will be an Anthony Davis-less Lakers squad. They’ll then return home for the holidays before starting another back-to-back, beginning with the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.