According to the most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, a full 100 percent of Spurs fans are confident in the direction the team is heading in. That’s up from 67 percent from last week.
This spike in confidence across the fanbase should come as no surprise with how well the Silver and Black have played as of late. After a five-game losing streak to kick off April, San Antonio has now won seven of their last ten outings, including three straight heading into their rematch with the Miami Heat tonight.
The Spurs have bounced back and climbed into a tie with the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference. But with the Celtics, Sixers, Jazz (x2), Blazers, Bucks, Nets, Knicks, and Suns (x2) left on their brutal regular-season schedule, a string of losses could put a damper on their momentum heading into the play-in tournament.
There’s been no rhyme or reason behind San Antonio’s recent resurgence, so don’t be shocked if the Spurs keep rolling. They held the second-place Suns to 85 points on the road in a surprising blowout while resting Patty Mills, Jakob Poeltl, and DeMar DeRozan. They also ended Washington’s eight-game winning streak despite spotting them 143 points and making just six three-pointers in an overtime shootout.
Unfortunately, Derrick White, who was barely beginning to find his footing following a season-long battle with injuries and illness, went down with an ankle sprain against the Wizards on Monday night. The Spurs still haven’t provided a timetable for his recovery, and his absence leaves a massive hole in the starting rotation that might leave them supremely shorthanded for the remainder of the year.
Derrick was a steadying two-way presence for San Antonio since the All-Star Break, and head coach Gregg Popovich will have to experiment with lineups to replace his production. The Spurs called on Lonnie Walker IV and Devin Vassell when offseason toe surgery sidelined White early on, and both were rotation regulars when the team was six games above .500 in mid-March for the first and only time this season.
If Vassell or Walker can rise to the occasion, the Silver and Black should have no trouble staying in the playoff race. They require a combination of seven San Antonio wins and Pelicans losses to secure their spot in the play-in tourney. And with DeMar averaging 24.8 points and 8.3 assists per game on a strikingly efficient 50% shooting over his last nine contests, the four-time All-Star is peaking at precisely the right moment.
As teams prepare for the final push of the season, more teams than ever will have an opportunity to participate in some form of postseason play. Because of a rule change instated for the wildly unpredictable pandemic-influenced 2020 season, two more teams from each conference will have a chance at chasing a title.
This season, seeds seven through ten will participate in a play-in tournament, with two earning a bid into the traditional postseason format. The seventh and eighth seeds will only need to win one game to advance to the playoffs, while the ninth and tenth seeds must win both games.
According to a majority of fans around the country, the play-in tournament has produced the desired effect. Nearly two-thirds of fans believe the new format has kept more teams engaged while preventing a least a few others from tanking for better lottery odds.
As we discussed beforehand, the Spurs are still vying for a spot in the play-in tournament. And while the remainder of their schedule doesn’t instill much confidence, there a reason for optimism. The Nets, Bucks, Jazz, and Suns could have their playoff seeding set in stone when they meet San Antonio, giving them every incentive to rest their star players for their upcoming first-round matchups. That may not guarantee any victories, but Pop and company will take any help they can get.
More than that, a nearly identical percentage of fans find the concept of a play-in game exciting.
With San Antonio missing the playoffs for the first time in 23 years a season ago, the Silver and Black faithful will undoubtedly understand the appeal of a play-in game. Who knows, the Spurs may very well find a way to sneak into the 2021 postseason.
The good guys are a collective 3-5 against the Blazers, Grizzlies, and Warriors this season, which is slightly concerning considering those are the teams potentially standing between them and the seventh or eighth seed. On the bright side, San Antonio has already beaten that trifecta of likely play-in opponents, so who’s to say they can’t do it again?
For now, the play-in format is in place just for this season. However, should the NBA finds success with the play-in, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them run it back next year.
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