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Spurs Week in Review: That’s not how you tank

The Spurs open the 2022-23 season with a winning record in Week 1.

San Antonio Spurs v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Welcome to the Week in Review: a Monday feature that looks back at the week that was for the San Antonio Spurs, takes a look at the week ahead, and more. Enjoy!

Week 0: N/A

Week 1: 2-1 (2-1 overall) — 102-129 L vs. Charlotte Hornets; 137-134 W @ Indiana Pacers; 114-105 W @ Philadelphia 76ers

Some Spurs fans probably looked at the opening week of their 2022-23 schedule and saw a 2-1 record as a distinct possibility. A season opener at home against a Charlotte Hornets team that was missing LaMelo Ball to injury looked like a prime opportunity to start out on a positive note, and a road opener against a team with similar bottom-of-the-league projections in Indiana looked like another possible Spurs win before a presumed loss on a SEGABABA in Philadelphia awaited. Week 1 has passed, and the Spurs are 2-1 (while facing a gauntlet of a schedule going forward), they just didn’t get there how you might have expected.

On what should have been a celebratory night, with the opening of their 50th season and honoring Manu Ginobili’s induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the Spurs came out with an absolute stinker of a performance against Charlotte. They were almost immediately down by double-digits and never threatened to make much of a comeback outside of a little spurt in the third quarter. The defense looked lost, and there was no logic or teamwork on offense. Even for fans expecting the worst, it was a little demoralizing if this was what we could expect to watch going forward.

However, a different team showed up for the two road games. For three quarters against the Pacers, the Spurs found their shooting stroke from three, which allowed them to open up the rest of the offense, before reminding the world that they lack a closer and are a young team with lots of players in new roles, nearly allowing an insane comeback by the Pacers in the final minutes on a comedy of errors, but they still held on for the win.

Finally, they headed to Philadelphia for an early tip-off to face a far more talented 76ers team that includes the player voted second-most likely to win MVP in Joel Embiid, plus James Harden, who had averaged 33 points in their first two games of the season. In another game of looking like a completely different team than on opening night, the Spurs had little trouble handing what should be a contending team their third straight loss to open the season on the back of more hot three-point shooting and ball movement. Don’t expect the Spurs to look this good every night, especially against superior opponents, but if nothing else they might be more pleasant on the eyes than opening night suggested.

Stat of the week: 38.8% from three

The Spurs were not penciled in to be a strong three-point shooting team this season, especially with a starting line-up that only features two capable shooters in Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell. However, despite a hitting a putrid 7-34 one opening night, the Spurs are currently hitting threes at the 9th-best rate in the league. It may not be a stat that holds, but it’s definitely the surprising one of the week.

Power Rankings

John Schuhmann: — 23 (Last Week: 30)

OffRtg: 113.9 (9) DefRtg: 117.2 (26) NetRtg: -3.3 (19) Pace: 104.0 (5)

A wire-to-wire defeat (they trailed by as many as 35 points) at home to the Hornets on Wednesday had the Spurs looking like the Day 1 front-runners in the race for Lottery combinations. It also seemingly confirmed fears that their offense – 102 points on 105 possessions against a team that ranked 22nd defensively last season – would be pretty anemic.

But as noted last week, the Spurs are shooting more 3s this season, and 3s can be an equalizer. With eight different Spurs draining at least one over the weekend, they were 33-for-69 (48%) from beyond the arc, scoring more than 122 points per 100 possessions as they won in Indiana and Philadelphia. Eleven of the 12 guys who played had at least two assists over the two wins and the Spurs are back in the top 10 in both player and ball movement. At times, the ball was moving like it was 2014.

The core is super young, but we shouldn’t be surprised that Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson and Tre Jones have come back as more skilled and confident players. This team will take its lumps and the defense might actually be a bigger issue than the offense. But, as the Sixers learned on Saturday, it can also be dangerous on any given night.


Kyle Wood: Sports Illustrated — 22 (Last Week: N/A)

The Spurs survived a 40-point barrage from Joel Embiid on the road to hand Philadelphia another loss and continue their respectable start. A 27-point home loss to the Hornets to begin the year was more or less par for the course given where San Antonio stood ahead of the season, but then it went on the road and lit up the Pacers with 17 made threes and survived against the 76ers. Keldon Johnson has at least 20 points in each contest and has been deadly from three to lead a surprisingly lethal offense.

Enzo Flojo: Clutch Points — 19 (Last Week: N/A)

Much like the Jazz, the Spurs haven’t been playing like they want (Victor) Wembanayama that badly. An opening loss to the Hornets was par for the course, but then they upset the Pacers and 76ers. How can it be so hard to tank, right?

Coming up: Mon. 10/14 @ Minnesota Timberwolves (2-1); Wed. 10/26 @ Minnesota Timberwolves; Fri. 10/28 vs. Chicago Bulls (1-2); Sun. 10/30 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Prediction: 1-3 — I’m conflicted between 1-3 and 2-2, but the twin towers of Minnesota should present a matchup nightmare for the Spurs, at least in theory. I also see DeMar DeRozan coming in and continuing his red-hot start to the season against his old team (and as Spurs fans saw against Toronto when he was here, he has a knack for that), so I’m saying the Spurs get one of the three matchups against the Timberwolves, and that’s it. (Really, NBA scheduling computer?)