Do you see any scenario in which San Antonio misses the play-in tournament? And do you think they could somehow get the eight seed?
Marilyn Dubinski: Aside from not wining again in the regular season, I have a hard time seeing a scenario where the Spurs don’t make the play-in tournament (although it’s looking at least more possible with each passing loss). The Pelicans only have six games to lose three fewer games than the Spurs, who own the tie breaker. So even if the Spurs went just 2-5 the rest of the way — I’d like to at least believe the Spurs can squeeze out two more wins — New Orleans would have to go 4-2 to surpass them, and I don’t see four wins left on their remaining schedule.
As for the second question, the eighth seed is looking less attainable now, both the Warriors and Grizzlies own the series tie-breakers over the Spurs, and while neither of these three teams have been hot lately — all are hovering around .500 over their last 10 games — the other two have friendlier remaining schedules than the Spurs. I can see the Spurs getting to 9th, but not 8th at this point.
Mark Barrington: I felt more confident before the Pelicans beat the Warriors on Tuesday night. The Spurs’ magic number remains at 5 over the Pelicans and right now, the Kings are just as much of a threat and they have an easier schedule, and Sacramento also has a head-to-head matchup against the Spurs this week. If the Spurs can win 3 of their last 7 (with one of them being the Kings game), I think they’re a lock for a play-in spot. If they win 2, I still think they have a good shot, but if they win 1 or 0 of their final games, they’ll miss the play-in and deserve their fate. I overall give the Spurs about a 35% chance of being knocked out of the play-in tournament, and the Silver and Black’s chances of advancing above the 10th spot are small, like 10% or less.
Bruno Passos: Missing the play-in is definitely, uh, in play, even if it’s still probably not the likeliest outcome. Should anyone trust the Pelicans or Kings to be at least average down the stretch? Probably not. But a Kings win over San Antonio on Friday makes things interesting, and that’s probably the last time Vegas will even consider favoring the Spurs barring an opposing team’s injury or decision to rest stars. New Orleans hasn’t shown the ability to play up to their talent level, but all it takes is a timely stretch of hot play or bad luck from who’s left on their schedule.
But if this season’s group has fostered any sort of identity, it’s the ability to reverse a narrative as soon as once gains momentum. So while the media and fans begin to get excited about the idea of Zion in a meaningful game and cross this team off, I think they’ll tap into their only real superpower and somehow squeeze in.
Jesus Gomez: The only reason why I think it’s possible for the Spurs to miss the play-in is because their schedule is so tough. There’s only one game left that San Antonio should be favored to win, Friday's bout with the Kings, and even then it’s hard to pencil in a dub against a team that already beat them this season. If every opponent plays near their normal level, the Spurs could actually lose every game left.
I doubt that happens, though. The good teams they’ll face don’t have to worry about the play-in and could rest players, so I’m assuming the Silver and Black will secure at least the 10th spot. Climbing up the standings doesn’t seem likely, but falling off doesn’t seem inevitable, either.
J.R. Wilco: It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which San Antonio misses the playin: they just lose the rest of their games in the same heartbreaking, near-miss or embarrassingly blowout way they’ve lost the last five straight. Or they win every game they have against sub-500 teams (just one — Sacramento) and lose the rest while New Orleans gets hot and wins half of theirs. The Spurs have lost more games than they’ve won this season, they’ve lost six of their last ten, and they’ve lost their home games at an historic rate. None of that makes me think of them as a playoff-level team — so I can’t imagine them getting the 8th seed. But I sure would enjoy it.
Assuming they stay at the ninth or 10th spots and the Blazers are safe, which opponent would you like for them to have in the first match up: the Warriors or Grizzlies?
Marilyn Dubinski: I think the Warriors present a better chance for the Spurs (in theory). The Grizzlies are healthier, deeper, and present a more team-wide effort to slow down, while Golden State is depleted and easier to scheme against because it’s more a matter of just stopping Steph Curry and making everyone else beat you (which admittedly is easier said than done). They also lack the interior defenders to slow down the Spurs’ rim attack, and on the other end the Spurs tend to suffer when Jakob Poeltl gets into foul trouble. Should that happen, Drew Eubanks and Gorgui Dieng could handle Golden State’s bigs a lot easier than than they could Jonas Valancuinas and Jaren Jackson Jr. Final Verdict: give me the Warriors. Even if Curry goes nuclear and wins, that’s easier to tip the cap to than Memphis.
Mark Barrington: I choose the Warriors. The Grizzlies have a ton of players that can hurt you, and the Warriors only have Curry. If Steph has an off night, even a mediocre team can beat them, as the Pelicans proved on Tuesday night. Curry makes the players around him better, which makes most of the Golden State roster look like NBA players, which many of them are not. Ja Morant is incredible and I love to watch him, but not against the Spurs. They also have talented bigs and secret weapon Kyle Anderson, so they’re just much more formidable than this year’s Warriors.
Bruno Passos: I’d say the Grizzlies, although I’m not sure I’d bet on the Spurs with either matchup. Steph Curry is enough to break the Spurs’ defense and the Warriors in general do a great job of cutting and moving off ball, which San Antonio can struggle with. The Grizzlies pose their own challenges but I see something of a more straightforward path to victory in scheming against Ja Morant and his still-shaky three-point shot.
Jesus Gomez: Ja Morant plus good bigs is very scary for a Spurs team that has struggled to contain penetration and relies heavily on Poeltl staying out of foul trouble to have a stable defense. That being said, nothing is scarier than the possibility of Stephen Curry just going supernova. If he’s feeling it, he absolutely changes the game and creates so many problems for even the most disciplined defenses. The rest of the team is not that scary, but Draymond Green is the type of guy that turns on the intensity on defense when something is on the line. Against the Grizzlies, I feel like the Spurs can win by playing well. Against the Warriors, I feel like there’s a huge factor that is out of their control, so I’ll take the Grizzlies, even though they probably are the better team.
J.R. Wilco: It’d be a classic case of happy-to-be-there in which matchups and styles are purely secondary. Grizzlies or Warriors? Fine by me. I’d love to see the Spurs do something after the regular season, even if it’s just winning a couple of games against other flawed teams. But I’m sure not expecting it