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Power Rankings, Week 18: Spurs finding a rhythm in the final stretch

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A good week for the Silver and Black could lay the foundation for a strong stretch run into the playoffs.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

This season may not have been what everyone was expecting because of COVID protocols and the shortened season. The San Antonio Spurs have had a roller coaster season and are currently sitting just one game over .500 and in 9th place in the West (in line for the play in tournament). But this past week has shown that the Silver and Black, when given some free rein and youthful exuberance, can be a winning team.

Week 18: This week had two COVID protocol rescheduled games - first against the Indiana Pacers. The game started off slow and it took one quarter for the Spurs to refocus and take over the game versus the short-handed Pacers. Derrick White put on a three-point clinic - going 6-11 from the arc and finishing with 25 pts. White has started to regain his Bubble-vibe at just the right time.

For most of the game against the Miami Heat, the Spurs kept themselves in it. In the end, the Silver and Black just seemed to lose gas and the game fell to the Heat. No one on the team seemed to be able to get on a run to put the Heat away, and Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro couldn’t be stopped. The only high point was the block party put on by Jakob Poeltl.

Gregg Popovich decided to test the ire of the league by resting DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, and Patty Mills against the Detroit Pistons, and the rest of the team pulled out an impressive win. Poeltl has been steadily showing his growth with another double double and a 4 block night (as well as improving his free throws).

In a game with play-in implications against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Silver and Black controlled the final frame with crunch-time DeRozan delivering a 32 point performance and White contributing 22 points while going 4 of 8 from the arc. Dejounte Murray and Poeltl put in defensive performances with 3 steals and 5 blocks respectively.

Last Week: 3-1 (30-29, 9th in West) — 109-94 @ Pacers; 107-87 vs Heat (loss); 106-91 vs Pistons; 110-108 @ Pelicans

This Week: 4/26 @ Washington Wizards; 4/28 @ Miami Heat; 4/30 @ Boston Celtics; 5/2 vs Philadelphia 76ers

Andrew Lopez, ESPN: 18 (Last week: 18)

The Spurs have won four of their past five games to jump back into the ninth spot in the Western Conference. They’ve gotten a lift from Derrick White’s scoring over that stretch. White had two games with at least 25 points last week, bringing his total to six in 35 games this season. In his first 152 career games, White had only three games in which he scored 25 points or more.

Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports: 17 (Last week: 17)

A much-needed 3-1 week from the Spurs, who have struggled against a tough schedule after the All-Star break. DeMar DeRozan’s late jumpers sealed an important win over the Pelicans on Saturday to give them some breathing room in the race for a play-in spot out West. DeRozan averaged 21.7 points and six assists in three games this week, while Derrick White scored 21.5 points per game on 40 percent 3-point shooting.

John Schuhmann, 17 (Last week: 17)

The Spurs still have a brutal remaining schedule …

Nine of their 13 games are on the road.

Eleven of the 13 are against teams with winning records, with one of the two exceptions being their game against the red-hot Wizards on Monday.

Starting with their game against the Sixers on Sunday, they’re playing 10 games (with four back-to-backs) over the last 15 days of the season.

But they’ve won four of their last five games, the first time this season that their defense has allowed less than a point per possession over a five-game stretch. They’ve been much better on the road (17-10, with the league’s fifth-ranked road defense) than they’ve been at home (13-19). They stole a rest day for DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills on Thursday, picking up a comfortable win over the Pistons behind big games from Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl.

Most important is that they now have a significant, five-game lead in the loss column (along with the head-to-head tiebreaker) over the 11th-place Pelicans, thanks to their win on Saturday. They blew a double-digit, second-half lead, but scored 16 points on 11 clutch possessions, with DeRozan getting three key buckets in isolation. The 1.22 points per possession he’s scored on isolations is the second highest mark (a tick behind that of James Harden in 2017-18) for a player with at least 100 isolation possessions in 17 seasons of Synergy tracking.

Mo Dakhil, Bleacher Report: 19 (Last Week: 18)

San Antonio just refuses to quit.

Winners in four of their last five, the Spurs have moved a game above .500. They are part of the heated play-in seed race with the Warriors and Grizzlies despite having a brutal schedule. San Antonio’s win in New Orleans to end the week was the start of 10 of the Spurs’ last 14 games being on the road.

Jakob Poeltl has been great these last four games. Despite ending up on a poster dunk from time to time, he averaged 3.8 blocks while pulling down 8.5 boards and scoring 12.3 points. It is never flashy and often goes unnoticed, but he has been a huge contributor to the Spurs this year.

Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer: 18 (Previous Ranking: 23)

Respect for Jakob Poeltl.

There’s really nothing flashy about Poeltl’s defense. He’s not especially quick or explosive. He doesn’t block a ton of shots (1.8 per game). He rarely ever switches, doing so on only 4 percent of on-ball screens, per Second Spectrum. But he relies on a high basketball IQ and positioning to impact offenses.

Big Plays on Defense

Defender PTS Per Shot Allowed Shots Allowed Per Game

Rudy Gobert .92 12.9

Myles Turner .94 12.7

Jakob Poeltl .94 9.9

Nerlens Noel .99 8.6

Deandre Ayton .99 8.5

Stats via Second Spectrum, minimum 300 plays

The chart above lists the players who’ve allowed the fewest points per shot scored on shots attempted in the paint when those players are the closest defender. Poeltl ranks third! San Antonio is holding on to its play-in tournament spot, and Poeltl and the team’s defense is a big reason why.

So as the season comes down to the last 13 games (3 weeks), have the Spurs figured out how to get into the playoffs or is it too late? Let us know in the comments.