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Breaking down the Spurs’ 2021-22 schedule

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The Spurs open and close the season with some whoppers, with plenty of excitement mixed in along the way.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA released the schedules for the 2021-22 season last week, and after last season’s COVID-condensed schedule, it’s comforting to see a return to normalcy via an 82-game schedule that starts in the second half of October and ends in the first half of April and hopefully won’t leave players gasping for air by the end. Hopefully it can stay that way.

The Spurs schedule itself features some wild stretches, including some unusually long home stands and road trips, tough stretches, and what should be a wild finish with a middle-of-the-West-heavy schedule. So with that being said, it’s time to take a deeper look at the Spurs’ schedule and see what they’re in store for. It can be found by clicking here or the image below.

Observations

  • The Spurs will hit a tough stretch of schedule right out of the gates. After a winnable season opener against the Magic at home on October 20, six of their next seven games will be against playoff teams from last year, none of whom are expected to fall much, if at all this season. This includes a matchup in the Mile High City against reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, both games of the season against the reigning NBA champion Bucks, a visit from what will be a healthy Lakers club that should be much closer to the team that won the 2020 championship than the injured one that burned out last season, and two games against the Mavericks, who made some questionable moves this offseason but still have Luka Doncic and should be in the running to win a relatively weak Southwest Division. (Who ever thought that day would come?) If the Spurs can at least break even after their fist eight games, they will have weathered the initial storm.
  • Considering the Spurs were unusually bad at home last season regardless of opponent (14-22 overall, including just 2-7 on a franchise record nine-game homestand in March/April) and initially a winning team on the road before tapering off in the end, it’s hard to know whether to be more excited or nervous about the various extended home and road trips. The Spurs have two seven-game homestands, one from January 12 to Jan. 23 — with four of those games coming against should-be playoff teams — and another about a week after the Rodeo Road Trip from March 7 through the 18th. That one is a slightly more winnable with only two “likely losses” mixed in, and it could be crucial if the Spurs are looking to be a part of the playoff hunt.
  • On the other hand, they will have seven road trips that last at least three games or longer, including a brutal four-game West coast swing just before Christmas, a seven-game trip beginning on New Year’s Eve, the Rodeo Road Trip, and finally another four-game trip all over the Western Conference in late March that could again be crucial to the playoff/play-in race. In fact, 16 of their final 19 games after the RRT will be against the West, including their last 13, and several of those games are against teams they could be in direct competition with for seeding. March and April figure to be a doozy if they’re are still in the playoff hunt.
  • Speaking of the Rodeo Road trip, it’s actually one of the friendlier schedules the Spurs have had in quite a while. The Hawks, Bulls and Heat won’t be easy outings, but the remaining five games — Cavaliers, Pelicans, Thunder, Wizards and Grizzlies — should at least be winnable.
  • One thing I’m happy to not see many of is those mini-series: when the same teams play each other in consecutive games, be it in the same venue or a home-and-away. Granted, last season’s COVID-condensed schedule was designed to lower the amount of travel and make contact tracing a bit easier, but regardless of the location, time of season, or level of opponent, the Spurs went a horrific 4-16 in their 10 mini-series: nowhere close to breaking even and without winning a single series. This season, they’ll only have two mini-series, both at home. One is against the Nuggets from December 9-11, and the other against the Trail Blazers April 1-3. All they would have to do is win one of those games to beat last season’s winning percentage on miniseries. That shouldn’t be too hard, right?
  • Some notable “reunion” games at the AT&T Center include former Spurs Rudy Gay and the Utah Jazz on December 27, Patty Mills with the Brooklyn Nets on February 21, and DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls on February 28. All three of those games will likely see the visitors favored — not to mention former players tend to go off against their old teams — but maybe the Spurs can soften them up a bit with their fantastic, emotional tribute videos before the games. (Or it could just motivate them ever more. There’s no telling, but expect some tears, especially for Patty.)