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Power Rankings, Week 16: Going from Rough to Rougher?

The San Antonio Spurs ended a rough week with a strong outing.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Are flashes of great basketball enough to say that the San Antonio Spurs are still making progress if they keep losing? A bad week at home has morphed into a worse week on the road.

Week 16: Many believed that the Spurs would bounce back from a losing homestand against the lottery-bound Cavaliers, but that wasn’t to be. While Keldon Johnson had a strong double double, the rest of the team couldn’t seem to get going and looked tired in their worst loss of the season.

Up next in the five game road trip were the Denver Nuggets in a two game mini-series. The red hot Nuggets never really let the Silver and Black maintain a run. While Dejounte Murray returned, the team as a whole still looked worn out. For a good portion of the game, the Spurs seemed to stay within reach, but every time the Spurs started to make a run, the Nuggets ended it. By the half, the Spurs couldn’t seem to keep up any energy and they got their fourth loss in a row. The second game of the series provided a little more competition with the Spurs only losing by 2. After missing several games with a sore wrist, Lonnie Walker IV returned, scoring 8 points in 17 minutes. But it was DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White who really kept them in the game. The Spurs had a chance to tie the game in the end with a Keldon Johnson shot that didn’t go in, was tipped by Dejounte Murray that missed, and then DeRozan had a final try that went off the rim.

Sunday night’s tilt versus the Mavericks looked like a totally different team. The Silver and Black came out with a sense of urgency after the bad losses to the Nuggets in their effort to snap the long losing streak. Dejounte Murray made life hard for Luka Doncic and DeMar DeRozan played out of his mind. The game ended with a brilliant final shot from DeRozan.

Last Week: 1-3(25-26, 9th in West) — 125-101 vs Cavaliers (loss); 106-96 @ Nuggets (loss); 121-119 @ Nuggets (loss); 119-117 @ Mavericks

This Week: 4/12 @ Orlando Magic, 4/14 @ Toronto Raptors, 4/16 vs Portland Trail Blazers, 4/17 @ Phoenix Suns

ESPN: 17 (Last Week: 12)

Despite snapping a five-game losing streak on Sunday against Dallas, the Spurs sunk under .500 last week for the first time since they were 3-4 on Jan. 5. San Antonio had a remarkable stretch of consistency from 1997-98 to 2018-19, when they made 22 consecutive playoff trips. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, in those 22 seasons, San Antonio spent a total of 65 days under .500. In the past two seasons combined, San Antonio has been under .500 for 147 days.

Colin Ward-Hennginer, CBS Sports: 19 (Last Week: 16)

The Spurs avoided an 0-4 week, thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s game-winner against the Mavericks on Sunday. A loaded second-half schedule is catching up with San Antonio, and things don’t get any easier from here on out. DeRozan averaged 22.8 points and 6.5 assists for the week, while Dejounte Murray added 18.3 points per game on 39 percent 3-point shooting.

John Schuhmann, 15 (Last Week: 14)

The Spurs were seemingly collapsing under the weight of their second-half schedule (40 games over 68 days), having lost 10 of 12 games through Friday. After they got hammered by Cleveland last week, Gregg Popovich said that his team looked “fried.” But they hung tough in a two-game series in Denver, coming up just short in the final seconds of the second game. And then they broke through in Dallas on Sunday, with DeMar DeRozan capping their most efficient offensive performance since the All-Star break with a step-back game-winner over Dorian Finney-Smith.

Amazingly, the Spurs’ starting lineup has outscored opponents by 12.3 points per 100 possessions in its 161 minutes over the 3-10 stretch. But their bench, which had been fantastic for most of the season, has really struggled over the last 3 1/2 weeks. Through March 19, the Spurs were 18.6 points per 100 possessions better with Patty Mills on the floor (+9.3) than they were with him off the floor (-9.3). Since then, it’s been almost the complete opposite (-13.5 on, +3.3 off), even though Mills’ drop in effective field goal percentage hasn’t been all that dramatic (57.2% through March 19, 51.5% since).

We’ll soon learn if the win over Dallas was the start of a turnaround or just a small bump on the Spurs’ slide down the the standings. It began a stretch where they’re playing eight games in 12 days.

Mo Dahkil, Bleacher Report: 20 (Last Week: 17)

San Antonio is barely holding onto its spot in the play-in tournament after going on a five-game losing streak. Shooting has been a real problem during this run for the Spurs. Derrick White has shot just 30.4 percent while Patty Mills has connected on just 29.4 percent from downtown.

Besides the poor shooting, the Spurs defense has fallen off. Their defensive rating of 119.3 for April is 26th in the NBA—a big difference from their 111.2 defensive rating for the season.

San Antonio will finish its five-game road trip heading East with games against the Magic and Raptors. After snapping their losing streak against the Mavs, the Spurs can make up some ground against those teams this week.

Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer: ?? (Previously 23)

NA at time of publication

So Pounders, is the sky falling, or is it just a dip in the roller coaster ride? Let us know what you think in the comments.