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Spurs Week in Review: Even losses can be entertaining

The Spurs went an expected 1-2 against a tough schedule, but they’re still fun to watch.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies 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 3: Injuries and a tough schedule finally caught up with the Spurs for a winless week, bringing them back down to earth a bit.

Week 4: 1-2 (6-7 overall) — 109-115 L vs. Denver Nuggets; 122-124 (OT) L vs. Memphis Grizzlies; 111-93 W vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Aside from the announcement that backup center Zach Collins would miss some time with a fractured leg, the Spurs entered the new week about as close to whole as they have been since Week 1, but they still faced a daunting schedule against three teams that should finish in — if not close to — the top 4 in their respective conferences.

The week began with a rematch against the Nuggets at the back end of an away-home miniseries. After looking completely outmatched (and gassed from the altitude) the game before, the Spurs looked much better at home against the same team, going back-and-forth for three quarters while ending their trend of getting down big early and having to fight back. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get out of their own way at times, especially down the stretch, and 24 turnovers were too much to overcome in the close loss.

Next was a matchup against a divisional foe that has given the Spurs trouble the last couple of years in the Grizzlies. With Ja Morant being on the of hottest players in the country, the Spurs’ noted defensive struggles, and their extended losing streak, it didn’t seem like a game that was going to be too enjoyable to watch, but the Spurs did what they’ve done all season and beat expectations. They overcame yet another early double-digit lead to make it game and had chances at both the fourth quarter buzzer and OT buzzer (after a wild 9-point comeback in the final two minutes) to hit the game winners but fell short. Still, it was one of those games that showed how good things can still come from losses this season.

Finally, the Spurs closed their homestand against a 10-1 Milwaukee Bucks squad that was missing three key players in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. The Spurs took advantage and cruised to one of their easiest victories of the season behind strong performances from Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell and the continued breakout of Charles Bassey, completing the 1-2 week (just maybe not how many expected).

Stat of the week: KJ3

We’ve already gone over Bassey’s big night, so how about Johnson — who was not touted as a shooter coming out of college — looking to shatter franchise records from three? It’s already been noted that he and Vassell are both on pace to shatter Danny Green’s record of 191 made threes in a season, but Johnson is looking to break another one first. If he hits a three in each of his next four games, he will break Green’s record of 32 consecutive games with a made three-pointer. Who had KJ penciled in as that player when he entered the league?

Power Rankings

John Schuhmann, — 25 (last week: 21)

OffRtg: 110.2 (22) DefRtg: 115.2 (28) NetRtg: -5.1 (26) Pace: 102.2 (5)

The Spurs’ point differential (fifth worst in the league) is still worse than their record. But they went down to the wire in Denver and Memphis last week, missing two really good looks for the win against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. Over the two losses, they scored 114.5 points per 100 non-clutch possessions, but just 18 points on 23 possessions in the clutch, turning the ball over seven times.

The Spurs put an end to their five-game losing streak on Friday, beating the shorthanded Bucks behind a 51 points combined from Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell. Those two were the ones who missed the game-winners on Wednesday, but they’ve each been more efficient — true shooting percentages of 60.4% and 59.1%, up from 57.4% and 54.0%, respectively, last season — with much higher usage rates this season.

The Milwaukee win was also the second time the Spurs have held their opponent under a point per possession this season. They still rank 28th defensively, having seen the league’s fourth biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season (111.7, 16th). Some of that is opponent 3-point shooting, but their opponents have also shot better in the paint. Plus, the Spurs have also seen the third biggest drop in defensive rebounding percentage and now rank last on the defensive glass.

The Spurs’ only stretch of five games in seven nights this season is this week. It’s a five-game trip against the five teams in the Pacific time zone, the start of a stretch of 12 straight games within the Western Conference. They’re 2-5 in conference games thus far, but have played only four of the other 14 teams.

Zach Harper, The Athletic — 27 (last week: 29)

Good wins: Philadelphia, Minnesota and Chicago. No matter the status of these three teams to start the season, the San Antonio Spurs taking them down qualifies as good wins for the Spurs. And those are bad losses for those three teams, no offense to the Spurs.

Bad losses: None. Other than Charlotte on opening night without Ball, there isn’t even a questionable loss on their résumé so far.

Not sure how to feel: Loss to Charlotte, and wins over Indiana and Milwaukee. We’ll see if Charlotte is actually kind of solid or if the Hornets sink into the tank at some point. The win over Milwaukee looks good on the ledger, but they really just beat Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis and Jevon Carter. The win over Indiana is interesting. The Pacers aren’t a bad team until they start making deals, and this win over Indiana might end up affecting the final lottery odds totals by the end of the season for the Spurs.

What does it mean? The Spurs have too many wins so far if they’re looking to ensure they finish with a 14.0 percent chance to win the Victor Wembanyama lottery sweepstakes. Their net rating shows they’ll eventually trend toward not winning a lot of these games, but so far, they’ve been fun and competitive a lot of nights against teams you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

Enzo Flojo, Clutch Points — 21 (Last week: 14)

We guess the honeymoon period is done and dusted in San Antonio. They’re finally playing like they’re all in for Victor Wembanyama next season. It was nice to see them uncharacteristically snap a five-game slump with a home win over the visiting Bucks this past weekend, though.

Coming up: Mon. 11/14 @ Golden State Warriors (5-8); Tues. 11/15 @ Portland Trail Blazers (9-4); Thurs. 11/17 @ Sacramento Kings (6-6); Sat. 11/19 @ Los Angeles Clippers (7-6); Sun. 11/20 @ Los Angeles Lakers (3-10)

Prediction: 2-3 — Whatever happened to eliminating the FIGASENI? Wasn’t that the point of extending the regular season by two weeks? Regardless, the Spurs have one this week, and it’s entirely on the West Coast, so prepare in advance for some late nights. On the bright side, Golden State and the Lakers have way underperformed, but it won’t be that easy as the Trail Blazers have made a surprising leap to the top of the West, and the Kings are better than expected so far. There might be more than two wins available for the Spurs this week, but it’s the five-in-seven that has me holding back on my prediction a bit.