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Spurs Week in Review: Searching for energy while waiting to be whole again

A look at Week 13 of the 2021-22 season.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Week in Review: a new Monday feature that will look back at the week that was for the San Antonio Spurs, see what others are saying, take a look at the week ahead, plus more. Enjoy, and any helpful feedback or suggestions to improve the content is appreciated!

Week 12: COVID takes over long road trip

Week 13: 1-3 (16-27 overall, 12th in West) — 96-111 L @ New York Knicks; 124-128 vs. Houston Rockets; 109-114 L vs. Cleveland Cavaliers; 101-94 W vs. Los Angeles Clippers

It was another tough week for the San Antonio Spurs as they gradually — but not quite — get their roster back from of couple weeks of COVID depletion. The main challenge of the week was a the shorthanded team that was also finishing up a seven-game road trip while dealing with a stretch of five games in seven nights (not to mention ten in sixteen) and a month-long gap between consecutive days off (from Jan. 3 until Feb. 5) struggling to muster up enough energy down the stretch.

For the first three games if the week, the was exactly the case. After an OT loss in Brooklyn on Sunday, the Spurs began the week by finishing off their road trip up the road in Madison Square Garden, where they were more depleted than ever at just seven players deep (only three of which were top rotation players) before getting to two-way players and emergency 10-day contracts. They were able to hang tight for almost three quarters before running out of gas, and an 18-2 run by the Knicks to start the fourth turned a competitive game into a blowout loss.

Next, they finally returned home to begin a seven-game homestand with an opportunity to end their losing streak to the cellar-dwelling Rockets while welcoming Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson back from Health & Safety Protocols. Unfortunately, after keeping things pretty much even for three quarters once again, they ran out of gas in the fourth while Spurs-killer Eric Gordan went off, and even some insane late-game heroics by Dejounte Murray were not enough for the win. It was more of the same against the much-improved Cavaliers, with Doug McDermott finally back but the Spurs fizzling out in the fourth quarter.

Finally, Derrick White returned against the shorthanded Clippers (leaving just Tre Jones in H&S protocls), and even though Jakob Poeltl was out with back spasms, the Spurs finally found a way to win and end their losing streak at five games. They again struggled to score in the fourth quarter with only scored 16 points, but the key to victory was they closed strong after a cold start to the quarter, while in turn their opponent was the one who went cold down the stretch to give the Spurs the win.

Stat of the Week — The new “Big 3”?

This was already pointed out in the Clippers recap, but it bears repeating in case anyone missed it. When the Spurs have both Dejounte Murray and Derrick White available, they are a much better team. Both recently missed five different games apiece with COVID, and in those ten games the Spurs went just 1-9, meaning they are 15-18 when both play. Perhaps just as notable, they are 3-5 without Jakob Poeltl, with all eight of his games missed being ones White and Murray played, so that would make them 12-13 when all three players are available, which believe it or not, when going by W-L differential, would currently put the Spurs in the 7th seed of the West. That’s not a championship-winning trio (yet), but it’s certainly a core worth building around.

What They’re Saying

John Schuhmann, — 25 (Last week: 23)

Record: 16-27

Pace: 100.4 (4) OffRtg: 109.3 (17) DefRtg: 109.7 (18) NetRtg: -0.3 (16)

After playing just one back-to-back over the first five weeks of the season, the Spurs have had eight back-to-backs in the last six, with the worst of that timeframe (eight games, three back-to-backs) coming over the 12-day stretch that ended Saturday. Oh, and they’ve had six guys (including three starters) in Health and Safety Protocols over the last couple of weeks.

With all that (and with a seven-game road trip), the Spurs had a stretch where they lost nine of 10, scoring less than 105 points per 100 possessions (third-worst in the league) over the 10 games. The nadir was probably the first game of their seven-game homestand when a 41-20 Houston run in the second half turned a nine-point lead into a 12-point deficit. The silver lining was that rookie Josh Primo got some serious playing time with other guards unavailable.

The Spurs looked more whole at the end of that eight-in-12 stretch, getting 19 points from returning Derrick White and holding the Clippers under a point per possession on Saturday. So they’re 1-2 on the homestand with a few tough opponents in town this week. They’re 5-17 against the 16 teams currently over .500, with the last win (at Utah) having come exactly one month ago.

ESPN Staff — 25 (Last week: 22)

In his first game as a starter, Spurs center Jock Landale came through with 10 points and 11 rebounds (including eight offensive boards) in helping San Antonio to a 101-94 win over the Clippers on Saturday night. In his first game as a reserve this season (and his first game back from health and safety protocols), Spurs guard Derrick White had a team-high 19 points and a season-high three blocks versus the Clippers. — Andrew Lopez

Coming up: Mon. Jan. 17 vs. Phoenix Suns; Wed. Jan. 19 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder; Fri. Jan. 21 vs. Brooklyn Nets; Sun. Jan. 23 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

The Spurs start the week against the No. 1 team in the league, and hopefully they can get Poeltl back to help keep their long centers off the offensive glass (although Deandre Ayton is also questionable with an ankle injury). Their best change for a win will be against one of the few teams in the West with a worse record (although the Thunder still blew out the Spurs earlier in the season), before two opponents from their recent road trip return for a rematch. There may be a chance against the Nets, who will be without Kevin Durant — although Kyrie Irving is now playing in road games, plus it will be Patty Mills’ first return to the AT&T Center, so who knows what he will do.