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Spurs Week in Review: COVID strikes as the Spurs fall flat for 0-3 week

Looking Back at Week 11 of the 2021-22 season.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-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 10: An offensive explosion leads to three straight blowout wins

Week 11: 0-3 (14-21 overall, 11th in West) — 104-110 L vs. Utah Jazz; 105-118 L @ Memphis Grizzlies; 116-117 OT L @ Detroit Pistons

One of these days, the “Week in Review” article will feature the same team two weeks in a row. After looking nearly unbeatable after three blowout wins the week before — two on the road against the Los Angeles teams and one at home against the COVID depleted Detroit Pistons — the Spurs looked like they were on a role with one of the league’s top rated offenses.

But then, a misfortune that was plaguing other teams around the league but the Spurs had mostly avoided for the season finally — perhaps inevitably — struck. As the contagious (but not as bad) Omicron variant spreads even among the vaccinated, Dejounte Murray entered health and safety Protocols prior to their home game against Detroit, soon to be followed by Doug McDermott and Lonnie Walker before their game at Detroit to end the week.

In the meantime, the Utah Jazz visited San Antonio, and despite missing Donovan Mitchell on their end, they got revenge for the Spurs’ victory on their home turf from a couple of weeks prior. Next, it seemed like the Spurs would get a chance to find their winning formula again before hitting the road as the depleted Miami Heat came to town. Unfortunately, three more Miami players tested positive that morning, and two more players — including Jimmy Butler — got added to the injury list, bringing the team below the required 8 players. Even the league’s best efforts of trying to get them to sign some Austin Spurs fell flat, and the game was postponed.

Next, the Spurs set out on a seven-game road trip, beginning against a rising Memphis Grizzlies squad that has worked its way into the top 4 of the West. The Spurs hung close for a half despite losing Derrick White for much of the second quarter after he took an elbow to the head, but their offense went cold in the second half as Memphis gradually pulled away, with Murray’s absence being felt as Ja Morant went off for 30 points.

Finally, it felt like another winnable game was coming up the next night against the same depleted Detroit team the Spurs had just obliterated six nights prior, but now short three players to COVID plus Keita Bates-Diop to a sore hamstring, the Spurs offense again fell flat after surging out to an early 17-point lead. A surge of three pointers late by Bryn Forbes nearly saved them, but Keldon Johnson couldn’t convert the game winner, and a miracle three by Saddiq Bey at the end of overtime gave the even-more-depleted Pistons the improbable win over the short-handed Spurs.

Stat of the Year: 104 games played

With the 2021-22 season almost halfway over and the Spurs sporting a largely new team, the 2020-21 season may seem like an eternity ago, but when just looking at 2021 as a calendar year, the Spurs played a lot of games — their second most, to be exact. While their most ever came in 2012 — with 95 regular season games (thanks to the 2011 lockout that pushed 60 regular season games into 2012) and 14 playoff games for a total of 109 — they played 104 games in 2021, with only one of them (their play-in tournament game) not counting as the regular season.

This was caused by the COVID delay of last season, which again crammed a bunch regular season games into the 2021 side of the season, and I’m sure everyone can remember how exhausted the Spurs were by the end, as they had the most games in an already condensed schedule after the All Star break due to a COVID outbreak among the team causing the postponement of five games. So far, only one game has been postponed for them this season, and here’s to hoping they don’t face a similar situation in this normally scheduled season.

News of the Week

What they’re saying

John Schuhmann, — 24 (Last week: 22)

Pace: 100.6 (5) OffRtg: 110.2 (11) DefRtg: 108.9 (16) NetRtg: +1.3 (10)

The Spurs won their first game without Dejounte Murray, but they’ve since dropped three straight, scoring just 102 points per 100 possessions over the three games. They’ve seen their 3-point rate (3PA / FGA) gradually increase over the season (30.7% in their first 10 games, 35.8% over the last five), but they’ve shot just 32.4% from beyond the arc over the losing streak. Keldon Johnson (4-for-15) may be seeing some regression to the mean after shooting 47.6% from beyond the arc through Week 10.

The nadir was surely the Spurs’ overtime loss to the Pistons (the team they beat by 35 without Murray) on Saturday. The Spurs rank fifth in field goal percentage and 10th in 3-point percentage, but (mostly because of Jakob Poeltl, the one shot Chip Engelland can’t fix) they’re 29th in free throw percentage (72.5%), and they were 2-for-6 on clutch free throws (Poeltl missed a pair) in a game they lost by one. The Spurs are now 14-21 with the point differential of a team that’s 19-16.

Their postponement against the Heat on Wednesday kept the Spurs from having to play five games in seven nights. But starting Tuesday, they’re scheduled to play eight in 12. Murray did clear Health and Safety Protocols on Saturday, so he could be back for their five-game tour through the Atlantic Division.

ESPN Staff — 22 (Last week: 22)

San Antonio’s 3-point defense has been stellar over the past six games. Opponents have failed to make more than 10 3s against the Spurs in that stretch while shooting 27.3% from deep. San Antonio’s six consecutive games of holding an opponent to 10 or fewer 3s is the longest such streak by any team this season, and it’s tied for the second-longest streak by any team in the past three campaigns. (Utah had a streak of seven that started with two games at the end of the 2020-21 campaign and five to begin this season.) — Andrew Lopez

Coming up: Tues. Jan. 4 @ Toronto Raptors; Wed. Jan. 5 @ Boston Celtics; Fri. Jan. 7 @ Philadelphia 76ers; Sun. Jan 9 @ Brooklyn Nets

The Spurs continue their road trip with a five-game East Coast swing against the entire Atlantic Division, beginning on Tuesday against the Raptors. Other than the Nets, the remaining four teams are all within three games of .500, so the Spurs should be able to get at least a couple of wins out of it, but they’ll need to rediscover the form that led them on their recent surge of road wins out West.