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Spurs Week in Review: Slowly finding a niche in the NBA

Another 1-2 week feels like the Spurs are settling into their spot in the NBA.

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-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 9: After bouncing around between being surprisingly good and shockingly bad, the Spurs seemed to finally find a happy medium of not winning too much to hurt draft position but still playing hard, remaining competitive, and being watchable.

Week 10: 1-2 (9-22, 27th in NBA) — 124-105 W @ Houston Rockets; 117-126 L @ New Orleans Pelicans; 113-133 L @ Orlando Magic

The Spurs seem to be settling into their niche in the NBA: about one win per week, putting them within the bottom 3-5 teams (therefore in contention for the top lottery pick). They remain competitive and watchable most nights, and all this helps them not play with fans’ emotions too much and somewhat know what to expect.

This week was mostly predictable enough and kept them right in their little niche, beginning with their second win over the Rockets in a week. It very much mirrored their previous win: the game was competitive for one half before Houston completely fell apart in the second half, and the Spurs took advantage to cruise to a rare, easy victory. (And even if the Rockets are a team they’re in direct competition with for draft position, it will never not be satisfying to beat an in-state rival whose fan base still think they own the Spurs because “1995”.)

Next up was a visit to New Orleans, and it seemed like a good opportunity to steal a win from another division rival with both Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram out, but the Spurs fell back into their bad habit of starting poorly, getting outscored 37-17 in the first quarter. The game was pretty much over from there, with the final score making it look more respectable than it was thanks to garbage time. At least it featured a possible offensive breakout game from Jeremy Sochan, who had 23 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists while hitting 7-10 free throws with his new one-handed form.

Finally, the Spurs visited one of the few parts of the country that wasn’t freezing cold in Orlando to face off against a Magic team that has a similar record to the Spurs but had won seven of their last eight games. It was a streaky, competitive game throughout the first half and most of the third quarter, but the Magic went on an extended run, including hitting their first eight threes of the fourth quarter, to easily put the Spurs away.

Lottery Odds

Another win over Houston this week puts the Rockets back in the top three, but for whatever reason they have decided play horrid second halves against the Spurs this season, so what can they do. At least the loss to Orlando gave the Spurs a game’s cushion in the fourth spot.


John Schuhmann, — (last week: 28)

OffRtg: 108.9 (28) DefRtg: 118.3 (30) NetRtg: -9.4 (30) Pace: 101.3 (8)

Spurs rookie Jeremy Sochan certainly had an interesting week. He was taken out of the starting lineup on Wednesday, the same day he started shooting free throws with one hand in a win in Houston. He was back in the starting lineup on Thursday, when he had his best game of the season, registering 23 points (shooting 7-for-10 from the line), nine rebounds and six assists in a loss in New Orleans. And he had another solid night (13 points, nine boards and four assists) in a loss in Orlando on Friday.

Sochan’s jumper is shaky; his 11-for-56 (19.6%) from 3-point range is the worst markamong 246 players with at least 50 attempts. But he moves well without the ball and seems to have good touch around the rim, shooting 67.1% in the restricted area, fourth best among nine rookies (better than Paolo Banchero or Shaedon Sharpe) with at least 75 attempts. None of those six assistson Thursday were serious dimes, but he was handling the ball in transition quite a bit. Sochan is also fourth (among 22 rookies who’ve played at least 250 minutes) in deflections per 36 minutes, and has been given some tough assignments defensively. The three guys he’s guarded most this season are LeBron James, Karl-Anthony Towns and Damian Lillard.

At the start of this season, many of us thought the Spurs and Jazz were on the same tier, and they’ll meet for the first time in San Antonio on Monday. The Spurs will then travel to Oklahoma City, where they blew a 20-point, second-half lead (without Sochan or Jakob Poeltl) in late November.

Zach Harper, The Athletic — 27 (last week: 28)

Team clutch: (4-6) | -19.4 net rating (Ranked 27th)

The San Antonio Spurs haven’t been in a lot of clutch games because they’re usually getting blown out, and their record is surprisingly good considering they have one of the worst net ratings in the clutch this season. Their clutch defense has been pretty solid.

Mr. Reliable: Jakob Poeltl | 100.0 FG | 0.0 3FG | 0.0 FT | 9.8 points per 36 | 11.5 rebounds per 36 | 3.3 assists per 36 | 3.3 turnovers per 36

There aren’t many good options, unsurprisingly, for a team scoring less than 90 points per 100 clutch possessions. Poeltl has been a reliable safety valve, a good rebounder and a decent playmaker for a big man.

Mr. Unreliable: Tre Jones | 18.2 FG | 33.3 3FG | 100.0 FT | 12.8 points per 36 | 4.3 rebounds per 36 | 4.3 assists per 36 | 5.3 turnovers per 36

We don’t have a lot to work with because we’re only talking 10 games here of limited minutes, but Jones has struggled with putting the ball in the basket. They’re mostly going through Keldon Johnson, but Jones still should be better than this.

Enzo Flojo, Clutch Points — 28 (last week: 28)

The only reason the Spurs are ahead of the Rockets in these NBA Power Rankings is that San Antonio beat Houston this past week. They did it quite convincingly, too, thanks to Devin Vassell’s 26 points. Still, there’s not much to be happy about if you’re a Spurs fan. San Antonio just ain’t it this season.

Coming up: Mon. 12/26 vs. Utah Jazz; Tues. 12/27 @ Oklahoma City Thunder; Thurs. 12/29 vs. New York Knicks; Sat. 12/31 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Prediction: 2-2 — Again, maybe the holiday spirit has me being too optimistic, but the Spurs have almost bested the Thunder once this season and might be out for revenge (even though that was without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), and I feel like they’ll get at least one at home against one of the middling NBA teams they’ll face this week.