If there was ever a week for the Spurs to start working on setting rotations for the marathon that is the second half of the season, this was not it. With the team and LaMarcus Aldridge mutually agreeing to part ways as they shop him on the trade market, DeMar DeRozan missing two games for his father’s funeral, and three main rotation players returning from COVID protocols, nothing about this team was normal this week, and it showed in the wild levels of inconsistency from game to game.
Week 12: The win-loss record from this week — losses at Dallas and Philadelphia and a win at home over lowly Orlando — isn’t that surprising given the circumstances, but the wild swings from game to game were something to behold. A relatively close loss to the Mavericks could have been expected, but the way they got there via a multitude of unforced turnovers in the second half was disappointing and out of character.
Any negative feelings from that game were quickly lost as the Spurs returned home and proceeded to clobber the Magic by outscoring them 88-48 over the last three quarters, but they soon returned as the Spurs headed out on a five-games-in-seven-nights East Coast trip, beginning with the East-leading 76ers (sans Joel Embiid), where the Spurs were outscored a combined 38 points outside of the second quarter, which they merely won 30-27. Again, 1-2 is not surprising record for last week’s schedule, just how they got there.
This week the Spurs will finish that road trip before returning home for NINE straight games. The next three games should be winnable as they are all against teams outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, including two make-up games from the COVID hiatus in Detroit and Cleveland, before they finish off the trip against a Bucks team that had a relatively rough start to the season but has come around lately, winning eight of their last 10.
If the Spurs perform to their ability, it should be a 3-1 week, which would result in both an expected 3-2 record for this road trip. DeRozan should return at some point, but they also shouldn’t need him for these next three games. However, once he does return, this squad will be as complete as they have been all season, and there will be no more excuses. They have what it takes to get through the gauntlet and the make the postseason again (with or without the playin tournament, which is for the 7-10 seeds), but it will require a team effort night-in and night-out. One thing is for sure: they can’t beat themselves anymore.
Andrew Lopez, ESPN - 13 (Last Week: 10)
It was an up-and-down week for the Spurs as they kicked off the second half of the season. First, they are doing so without LaMarcus Aldridge, as the team mutually agreed with Aldridge to figure out where he’ll play basketball next. That preceded a tough loss to Dallas and a bounce-back win against Orlando before they fell to Philadelphia by 35 on Sunday. DeMar DeRozan, who had 30 points and 11 assists against the Mavericks, missed the past two games, but the Spurs do finally have all of their players back after COVID-19 caused several players to miss time.
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports - 14 (Last Week: 11)
After announcing that they were mutually parting ways with LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs beat the Magic, then lost to the Mavericks and 76ers this week. DeMar DeRozan went for 30 points and 11 assists in the loss to Dallas before missing the last two games of the week to attend his father’s funeral. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker all averaged double-figure scoring for the week, as the smaller, quicker Spurs look to make their mark without Aldridge.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 14 (Last Week: 12)
After 5 1/2 seasons, the LaMarcus Aldridge era in San Antonio is over, though it’s yet to be determined if the official ending will come via trade or buyout. The Spurs won three playoff series with Aldridge, reaching the 2017 conference finals, where Kawhi Leonard went down with a nasty ankle injury in Game 1. But in the last two seasons, the on-off numbers got ugly. And this season, the Spurs have been 11 points per 100 possessions better in 611 minutes with DeMar DeRozan on the floor without Aldridge (+2.8) than they’ve been in 408 minutes with the two vets on the floor together (-9.2).
With DeRozan missing the last two games to attend his father’s funeral, the Spurs’ post-Aldridge starting lineup – Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, DeRozan, Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poeltl – has played just 65 total minutes. The lineup with Trey Lyles in DeRozan’s place scored just 28 points on 36 possessions over the weekend as the Spurs split games against the Magic and Sixers. The Spurs may be moving on from the 35-year-old Aldridge, but three other guys on the other side of 30 – DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills – remain critical to their success.
Mo Dahkil, Bleacher Report - 11 (Last Week: 9)
The move is not all that surprising considering Aldridge had moved to the bench once he returned from his hip injury. The Spurs were better with him off the floor, which mostly had to do with the play of Jakob Poeltl.
Poeltl has been averaging 7.2 rebounds, and the Spurs have a 104.4 defensive rating with him on the floor. That’s far better than the 114.2 points per 100 possessions they allowed with Aldridge on the floor.
Thus far, the Spurs are 1-1 on their five-game East Coast swing.
Kevin O’Conner, The Ringer - N/A (Last Week: 13)