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Spurs Week in Review: Even injury and emotional shock can’t slow this team down

Amidst a slew of injury, illness, and the most shocking news to hit club in recent memory, the Spurs keep winning.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

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 1: The Spurs didn’t exactly start the season like a team looking to tank.

Week 2: 3-1 (5-2 overall) — 115-106 W @ Minnesota Timberwolves; 122-134 L @ Minnesota Timberwolves; 129-124 W vs. Chicago Bulls; 107-98 W vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

After surprising in their first week of the season with a 2-1 start, the Spurs set out to prove it was no fluke, and suffice it to say, they did just that. Beginning the week with a miniseries in Minnesota, the Spurs shot themselves out of a cannon at an unsuspecting, lethargic Timberwolves squad, taking a 103-71 lead into the fourth quarter before allowing the game to get a little too interesting for comfort, but they held on for the 9-point victory, nonetheless.

Of course, the challenge with miniseries is the opponents have now had a game to scout each other, and after being “punked” by the Spurs, in Minnesota’s own words, they weren’t going to let it happen again. While this game very much felt like a scheduled loss, not to mention everyone knew the Timberwolves were going to come back with a vengeance, the fact that the Spurs didn’t fold and still kept the game competitive throughout despite losing two rotation players felt like a passed mental test for the young squad.

Next came probably one of, if not the craziest days in history for the Spurs. Friday seemed like a normal gameday — only noteworthy because they would welcome former Spur DeMar DeRozan back to town (where he would join the 20,000-point club in front of his old team) — but everything went haywire a couple of hours before tip-off with the sudden and obscure announcement that Josh Primo had been waived (for what we would later learn are very disturbing reasons). For the second game in a row, the Spurs would have been forgiven for coming out flat due to the emotional state of shock they must have been in, but once again they surpassed all expectations, coming out strong to take an early double-digit lead against the more talented Bulls and holding on for the win as a rising Keldon Johnson matched DeRozan’s output.

Finally, the Spurs finished the week with a third outing against the Timberwolves, now even more short-handed without Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan, Josh Richardson and Isaiah Roby — not to mention Blake Wesley was lost during the game. Again, this would have been an excusable loss, but the Spurs once again used their newfound identity of team basketball to play above their heads (or are they?) and beat a lethargic Minnesota squad that may have some problems of its own to work out. I don’t know who or what this Spurs team is, but they sure are fun.

Stat the Week: 31.1 assists per game

Through seven games, the Spurs — the preordained leaderless, point guard-less Spurs — are leading the league in assists. Let that sink in while also considering they’re dishing out assists at a historic rate. Chalk that up to yet another unexplainable thing about his squad.

Power Rankings

John Schuhmann: — 12 (Last Week: 23)

OffRtg: 114.1 (11) DefRtg: 114.3 (21) NetRtg: -0.2 (15) Pace: 103.6 (3)

Last season, the Spurs were 34-48 with the point differential (plus-10 over 82 games) of a team that was 41-41. This season, they’re 5-2, having been outscored by a total of four points over their seven games. But while none of their five wins have come by double-digits, only two of the five have been within five points in the last five minutes. Their most narrow escape was Friday against the Bulls, when a turnover quickly turned into a steal and a bucket that gave them a four-point lead in the final minute. With their lack of primary ball-handlers, the Spurs rank 29th in turnover rate (16.0 per 100 possessions). And with the extra ball-handling burden on his shoulders, Tre Jones’ assist/turnover ratio (5.07 – second in the league last season) has been sliced in half (2.31).

The Spurs still rank 11th offensively, despite the turnovers and the absence of Devin Vassell for the last three games. They continue to shoot well (and more often) from 3-point range, and they’re one of five teams who’ve outscored their opponents by more than 10 points per game from beyond the arc. (Last season, they were 22nd in 3-point differential at minus-2.5 points per game.) Keldon Johnson and Doug McDermott were 12-for-24 from deep in the Spurs’ win over Minnesota on Sunday and are both 6-for-7 on left-corner 3s for the season.

We’ll see how sustainable the shooting is. The basketball aspect of the Josh Primo situation is obviously secondary, but the Spurs now have both one fewer prospect to develop and one fewer guy to handle the ball. They’re two games into a stretch where they’re playing eight of nine at home, but their next seven are against the Raptors, Clippers, Nuggets (x 2), Grizzlies, Bucks and Warriors. If they’re still .500 or better after that, they’ll surely be taken more seriously than the Wolves took them over their three meetings last week.

Kyle Wood: Sports Illustrated — 13 (Last Week: 22)

Few teams score more than San Antonio, and they had a great time putting the ball in the basket last week in three bouts with the Timberwolves and a win against the Bulls. The Spurs lead the NBA in assists per game at 31.1 and everyone is getting in on the action—five players average at least three dimes. San Antonio’s defense is going to let teams race up and down the floor and keep pace with them, but so far they’ve come out on top more often than not in their high-scoring contests.

Enzo Flojo: Clutch Points — 11 (Last Week: 19)

This team is the highest climber in our Week 3 NBA Power Rankings. Tre Jones has been rock solid and Josh Richardson is having a career year. Also, the trio of Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl has looked like the real deal. There’s no way this will last, though, so let’s just enjoy it while we can.

Coming up: Wed. 11/2 vs. Toronto Raptors (3-3); Fri. 11/4 vs. Los Angeles Clippers (2-4); Sat. 11/5 @ Denver Nuggets (4-2)

Prediction 2-1: Clearly, I underestimated these Spurs when I predicted 1-3 last week, so I won’t make that mistake again. This isn’t an easy week against three should-be playoff teams, but I’m a believer now and will say they take care of business at home against a middling Raptors club and struggling Clippers team (especially if Kawhi Leonard is still resting due to knee tightness — as of the writing of this article, he has missed three straight games). Then, I believe the Spurs will take the L in the Mile High City, but they’ll have a chance to get it back next week when Denver comes to San Antonio as part of an away-home miniseries.