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 6: The Spurs remember what it feels like to win
It would not be an exaggeration to say the Spurs just had their best week of basketball since March of 2019 — when the team went on a nine-game winning streak to clinch their spot on the playoffs for what would be the final time in their record-tying 22-year streak. After going through a rough six-game losing streak over the prior two weeks and things beginning to feel a bit bleak, somewhere a switch was flipped, and a taste of victory against the Boston Celtics in Week 6 led the Spurs to an improbable 3-0 record in Week 7 against a tough slate of teams.
The Spurs started the week out with a blowout win over the upstart Washington Wizards who have been one of the league’s pleasant surprises this season and currently sit at fifth in the East. After a slow first half, the Spurs exploded to outscore the Wizards 71-48 in the second half, with their top 10 defense never allowing Bradley Beal to get on a roll.
Next, the Spurs headed on the road for a tough three-game road trip out West, beginning in Portland. Although the Blazers were missing Damian Lillard, these two teams have a bizarre regular season history, and it’s just one of those places where seemingly anything can happen regardless of the circumstances. But alas, there was no reason to fear, as the Spurs ended up leading wire-to-wire for yet another convincing victory heading into the biggest test of the year so far. (The win also moved back to a game above .500 against the Blazers, meaning once again the Spurs have an overall winning record against every team in the league. Crazy, but not the Stat of the Week.)
Finally, the Spurs went into the home of the league-leading Golden State Warriors, facing a team coming off the extreme high of beating the Phoenix Suns the night before. Early on, the Warriors didn’t seem to realize this was a trap game and looked lethargic as the Spurs rushed out to a 20-point lead while Steph Curry couldn’t buy a bucket for most of the first half. He eventually found his groove late in third, just as the Spurs went ice cold from the field, scoring just 4 points in the first 9 minutes of the fourth quarter. It seemed over once they were down with 2:39 left, but the Spurs did something they hadn’t been doing earlier in the season: clamp down on defense and respond in the clutch, scoring the final seven points of the game for their best win of the (still) young season.
Stat of the Week: Derrick White over the last four games
(first 17 games in parenthesis)
19.5 points per game (11.1)
.422 FG% on 16 attempts (.392 on 10.6)
.344 3P% on 8 attempts (.282 on 4.6)
There are several reasons for the Spurs sudden turnaround in play (having Jakob Poeltl back, Gregg Popovich seems to have settled on a rotation for the most part, etc), but perhaps the biggest factor that triggered their current winning streak has been the improved play of White — and that’s still with plenty of room for improvement. His defense has been there the whole season, but when he is confident on offense, it takes the team to another level that it needs to be on to compete night-in, night-out. If he can keep this up, the Spurs will keep winning at a better rate than they were before.
In case you missed it
What they’re saying:
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 23 (Last week: 26)
Pace: 100.4 (5) OffRtg: 106.9 (21) DefRtg: 106.7 (10) NetRtg: +0.2 (15)
After winning just four of their first 17 games, the Spurs have won four of their last four, with three of the four having come against teams with winning records. The highlight, of course, was Saturday night in San Francisco. That was the Warriors’ first home loss since Oct. 28 and the second time in nine days the Spurs blew a lead of more than 20 points, only to come back in clutch time. Once again, Derrick White hit the go-ahead shot. And once again, Dejounte Murray followed that up with a critical bucket of his own.
The winning streak has been the Spurs’ best stretch of defense this season (97.7 points allowed per 100 possessions), and has pushed them back into the top 10 on that end of the floor. Their when-everybody’s-healthy starting lineup has played just seven games together, but has allowed less than a point per possession in its 83 total minutes.
The Spurs certainly benefited from the Warriors having played a big game against Phoenix the night before. San Antonio is the only team that’s played only one back-to-back (all but the Rockets and Sixers have played at least three), and the only one was in Week 1 (Oct. 22 and 23). Remuneration begins now. The Spurs will play eight back-to-backs over the next six weeks, with two of those part of a five-game Week 8.
ESPN Staff — 23 (Last week: 26)
San Antonio pushed its win streak to four on Saturday night in a win over Golden State, where they became the first team all season to hold at least a 20-point lead over the Warriors. Dejounte Murray averaged 22.3 points, 10 rebounds and 8.5 assists on the win streak and ran his streak of double-doubles to six games and has done so in a variety of ways — one triple-double, two points-rebounds double-doubles and three points-assists double-doubles. — Andrew Lopez
The schedule amps up big time in terms game frequency with a week-long FIGASENI. The Spurs begin the week looking to avenge their most recent loss in the home of the Suns before returning home for a five-game homestand that suddenly looks much more winnable than it did a week or so ago. The Knicks will visit town on Tuesday before the Spurs get both home games against Denver — who just lost Michael Porter to back surgery — out of the way, and ending the week against the cellar-dwelling (but improving) Pelicans. Oh, and there’s this to keep in mind when looking at the standings:
Fun fact: the Spurs are just 2.5 games back from the 6th seed. (And yes, the West is struggling right now.)— Marilyn Dubinski (@alamoaggie08) December 6, 2021
(Technically it’s the 5th seed since both the 5th/6th seed Clippers/Lakers are both 12-12.)