The San Antonio Spurs have taken fans on a winding rollercoaster ride of inconsistency, oscillating between encouraging victories over contenders and humiliating losses to shorthanded bottom dwellers. Variance and luck have played their part in what has been a season of noticeable growth for this young ball club, and they are hitting their stride on the hardwood.
Head coach Gregg Popovich and crew now find themselves three games out of the playoff picture and three games away from the worst record in the Western Conference. Unexpectedly it has been their offense that has carried them over their last ten-game stretch, ranking fourth in the league in efficiency (115.5 ORtg) only behind the Jazz, Hornets, and Bulls.
Dejounte Murray has played like an All-Star while carrying an unparalleled workload. Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV have finally begun breaking out of their cold spell, and Keldon Johnson has become an elite standstill marksman. Tre Jones, Josh Primo, and Jock Landale have earned rotation minutes, and the Silver and Black are inching towards a .500 record.
The Lakers have been incredibly inconsistent as a handful of injuries have ravaged their roster from the start of the regular season. Their misfortune has continued piling on as Anthony Davis, Avery Bradley, Kent Bazemore, Malik Monk, and Austin Reaves have joined their injury report.
Los Angeles defeated the Silver and Black without LeBron James in their previous two meetings this year, but the generational superstar is healthy and ready for action this go-round. And while King James has lost a step in recent years, he can still will his club to victory from time to time.
The Purple and Gold are by far the oldest team in NBA, and they are liable to show their mileage down the stretch of tight contests. San Antonio also struggles in the clutch, though their issues stem from inexperience. Don’t be shocked if this game comes down to the wire.
Dec. 26: San Antonio Spurs vs. Detroit Pistons
Detroit is an excellent case study for unapologetically running a not-so-covert tank job. Head coach Dwane Casey was always going to have an arduous task on his hands entering the season, and he has even less to work with after Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk suffered lengthy injuries.
First overall pick Cade Cunningham has finally adjusted to the speed of the NBA, averaging 20.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game on .473/.456/.800 shooting splits over his last nine outings. Sadly for the Pistons, nobody has hit their stride alongside the rookie.
A suboptimal supporting cast of fringe NBA players and miscast veterans has unsurprisingly ushered in frequent blowouts and a league-worst 5-24 record with a little more than a third of the season in the books. The good guys should win this matchup handily, but crazier things have happened.
Dec. 27: San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
San Antonio outlasted the Jazz on the road in what was maybe their best game of the season up to this point. Despite an encouraging dub over the hottest team in the NBA, the Spurs undoubtedly had a bit of long-overdue luck on their side after variance spurned them a few nights prior.
The Silver and Black outscored the best three-point shooting team in the league from beyond the arc and picked up their first win when allowing at least 120 points. Notoriously poor finisher Lonnie Walker IV also defied all odds to drain a go-ahead layup over three-time DPOY Rudy Gobert.
I wrote Utah presented the Spurs with their least winnable matchup in my previous ten-game prediction, and that proved false as they went toe-to-toe with them inside Vivint Arena. The good guys will be back at the AT&T Center for round two, which could give them the upper hand.
Dec. 29: San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
An assortment of ailments and injuries have been the one common thread between virtually every opponent on San Antonio’s upcoming slate. Miami has miraculously stayed afloat in the standings despite Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler missing a handful of games over the past few weeks.
Kyle Lowry has ramped up his production, averaging 16.0 points and 10.6 assists as the de facto engine of the Heat offense. The five-man lineup of Lowry, Duncan Robinson, Dewayne Dedmon, PJ Tucker, and Gabe Vincent also has the fifth-best net rating (+28.8) in the NBA since December 8.
Unfortunately for the good guys, Jimmy Butler, Markieff Morris, and Caleb Martin should be available by the time this matchup rolls around. And the Spurs seriously can’t afford to ignore breakout three-point marksman Max Strus or Sixth Man of the Year Award frontrunner Tyler Herro.
Dec. 31: San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have been somewhat of an enigma, sporting a sterling 10-2 record without Ja Morant and going a mediocre 9-11 when he suits up for them. Every organization should improve when regaining their burgeoning superstar point guard, and it’s only a matter of time before they click.
Before Morant rejoined the club, Memphis steamrolled opponents with an unexpectedly lethal misfit lineup of Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, and Steven Adams. That quirky quintet outscored their competition by an average of 35.1 points per 100 possessions.
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane deserve a bunch of recognition for how they rose to the occasion when Ja was on the sidelines. The pairing combined to average 36.6 points across that span while playing fantastic defense, complimenting each other on the perimeter and interior.
Jan. 1: San Antonio Spurs @ Detroit Pistons
The Silver and Black have seen a mixed bag of results outside the friendly confines of the AT&T Center. The good guys upset the third-place Jazz to begin a four-game road trip and promptly fell to the shorthanded Kings a few days later.
San Antonio will have the luxury of meeting the pitiful Pistons twice in one week, which should help them gain a little momentum before they embark on a formidable four-game stretch versus the Raptors, Celtics, Sixers, and Nets.
Jan. 4: San Antonio Spurs @ Toronto Raptors
It hasn’t been the smoothest sailing for the Toronto Raptors since trading DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for a one-season rental of Kawhi Leonard and winning the 2019 NBA championship. They experienced a momentary downward trajectory, but the future looks bright north of the border.
Fred VanVleet has played like an All-Star. Pascal Siakam has steadily but surely reacclimated following Summer shoulder surgery. OG Anunoby has taken another developmental leap, and rookie forward Scottie Barnes has been one of the most versatile and impactful rookies in the league.
The lone Canadian franchise has eight players in COVID-19 protocols and another three out of commission with various ailments, but they should all be off the injury report when the Spurs come to town. This game features two of the youngest teams in the association, and it should be a fun one.
Jan. 5: San Antonio Spurs @ Boston Celtics
The Spurs and Celtics have engaged in a few epic battles across their last couple of tilts. San Antonio lost an early 24-point lead only to hold Boston scoreless in the final three minutes in their previous encounter. And Jayson Tatum detonated for a career-high 60 points in the meeting before that.
Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson, Robert Williams III, Grant Williams, and Al Horford are talented troupe. But their depth chart doesn’t extend much beyond eight men, and they are lucky if Romeo Langford, Payton Pritchard, or Aaron Nesmith provide productivity.
With former Gregg Popovich disciples in head coach Ime Udoka and lead assistant Will Hardy, these cross-conference competitors are familiar with one another. The Silver and Black faithful should probably settle in for yet another back-and-forth affair in this rapidly approaching installment.
Jan. 7: San Antonio Spurs @ Philadelphia 76ers
The Ben Simmons saga has put a damper on Philadelphia since the three-time All-Star demanded a trade this summer. Rather than compromise for the sake of the organization, General Manager Daryl Morey has refused to budge on anything but a king’s ransom for the six-eleven point forward.
The Sixers have faltered on both ends of the court, falling out of genuine title-contending status and wasting another year of superstar center Joel Embiid’s prime in the process. The clock is ticking for the City of Brotherly Love as their immediate and long-term future rests in a state of limbo.
Sharpshooters Danny Green, Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Isaiah Joe, and Furkan Korkmaz have been uncharacteristically cold from beyond the arc through the first third of the season. But as Spurs know all too well, guys always seem to snap out of their funk against San Antonio.
Jan. 9: San Antonio Spurs @ Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn has nine players in COVID-19 protocols and another four dealing with nagging injuries. Despite their best efforts to find replacements using the hardship exception and promoting prospects from the G League, the NBA had little choice but to postpone each of their last three contests.
The Nets should be close to 100% healthy when the Silver and Black visit Barclays Center in early January. This matchup could shape up to be their first genuine test versus an Eastern Conference powerhouse operating at full strength, and hopefully, San Antonio responds to the challenge.
Kevin Durant has established himself as an MVP hopeful, James Harden is gradually returning to form, and Spurs alums LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills have fortified the second unit. Don’t disregard the importance of Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin, Nic Claxton, or DeAndre’ Bembry.
Record: 5-5 (17-23 Overall)