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 6: A second-straight winless week extended the Spurs’ losing streak to eight games.
Week 7: 0-3 (6-18 overall: 28th in NBA) — 111-119 L @ Oklahoma City Thunder; 99-117 L vs. New Orleans Pelicans; 95-133 L vs. Phoenix Suns
Notice a change above? Without clicking on the Week 6 link, see if you can figure out what’s different. Give up? It’s the replacement of the Spurs’ place in the conference standings with the NBA standings, because it’s probably safe to say that no one is standings-watching to see if the Spurs can sneak into the play-in tournament anymore. Instead, early as it is, it’s time to start watching for lottery position, because this Spurs team is just putridly bad right now, and it’s hard to see them climbing back up anytime soon.
Yes, they are severely short-handed, currently missing four main rotation players in Jakob Poeltl, Jeremy Sochan, Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson, but the slump started before they were out. There are plenty of other reasons to consider, such as their horrifically bad defense (I’m so disgusted by it I plan on covering it during the current break from play), a teamwide shooting slump from almost everyone not named Devin Vassell, poor ball security, and their inability to put together 48 good solid of basketball.
Aside from two good halves of play this week, it was more of the same as the Spurs slumped to 11 straight losses. After getting out to a 20-point lead one possession into the second half against the Thunder, the Spurs were an entirely different team than the one that scored a season-high 77 in the first half. Ball movement stopped, the turnover machine was turned on, and a rebuilding OKC team missing one of the top scorers in the league rallied back for the win.
Friday’s loss to the Pelicans followed a similar script. Although the Spurs weren’t quite as dominant in the first half, they did use two impressive runs at the close of each quarter to take a surprising lead into halftime. But again, the solid play didn’t translate to the second half, and the Pelicans took over and won with relative ease. As for the Suns loss, let’s just say it was bad from beginning to end and only missed the record for worst home loss of the Gregg Popovich era by one point. That title still belongs to the Raptors game from earlier this season, which just so happens to mark the beginning of this 1-16 stretch of play. Maybe this will mark the end since they’ve come full circle?
Forget stat or play off the week, there’s nothing fun in that right now. Now we have another feature because as mentioned above, we the fans are now officially on lottery position watch, not standings watch, so every week we’ll take a look at the Spurs’ lottery odds. Because they are currently a bottom-three team in the league, they share odds for the top four picks with the Pistons and Magic, via Tankathon.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 30 (last week: 30)
OffRtg: 107.0 (29) DefRtg: 118.5 (30) NetRtg: -11.6 (30) Pace: 101.9 (7)
The Spurs have the league’s first double-digit (winning or losing) streak of the 2022-23 season, having dropped 11 straight (and 16 of their last 17) games. They had a 20-point lead in Oklahoma City on Wednesday (and were previously 4-0 when leading by at least 15), but scored just 34 points on 50 second-half possessions, losing by eight to a Thunder squad that was playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They followed that up by scoring just 95.1 per 100 over weekend losses to the Pelicans and Suns. Another bad offensive game or two (or if the Hornets got LaMelo Ball back) and the Spurs could rank last on both ends of the floor.
The loss to Phoenix was the seventh game the Spurs have trailed by at least 30 points (no other team has trailed more than three games by 30-plus), but it did come with a little breakout from Keldon Johnson, who scored 27 points on 11-for-23 from the field after shooting 39-for-140 (28%) over his previous seven games. Johnson is tied (with Bones Hyland) for the biggest jump in usage rate (from 21% to 28.1%) among 242 players who played at least 500 minutes last season and have played at least 250 minutes this season (Devin Vassell has seen the fifth biggest jump), and the heavier load has obviously had an adverse effect on his efficiency.
The Spurs have three days off and still have four games left on a stretch where they’re playing eight of 10 at home. They’ve yet to play one of the other three teams — Detroit, Houston and Orlando — that have won less than 30% of their games, but the two worst teams in the Western Conference will meet for the first time in San Antonio on Thursday.
Zach Harper, The Athletic — 30 (last week: 30)
First-quarter grade: D+
First two weeks of the Spurs season were really fun. The team went a surprising 5-2 with those five wins coming against Philadelphia, Chicago, Indiana and Minnesota (twice). The young guys were running, and they were playing some really fun, energetic offense. And Keldon Johnson was off to a phenomenal start to his season. Then … reality and regression to the mean set in. The Spurs have lost 16 of their last 17 games and 11 in a row, and they have one of the worst offenses and defenses in the NBA. The young guys are still fun sometimes, but it’s a struggle. The plan is to lose, but maybe put on a better show as they do it.
Prediction update: Spurs don’t win more than 22 games this season. … With six wins in the first 24 games of the season, the Spurs are on pace for 20.5 wins. So let’s round up to 21. Juuuust making my prediction so far.
Enzo Flojo, Clutch Points — 30 (last week: 30)
The Spurs haven’t seen their side of the scoreboard with a higher number since Nov. 12. That’s about three weeks ago, which is obviously not good by any standard. And, man, the way this team has been losing is just embarrassing. They’ve lost their last two games by an average of 28.0 points. This is what desperation looks like, folks. Just keep the eye on that Wemby prize.
Coming up: Thurs. 12/8 vs. Houston Rockets (6-17); Sat. 12/10 @ Miami Heat (11-12)
Prediction: 1-1 — Rinse, repeat from last week: The more the Spurs lose, the closer they are to their next win, right? Even though the Rockets have been on a slight rise lately, winning 4 of their last 10 after a 2-11 start, they’re the worst team the Spurs have faced this season. This team desperately needs to taste a win again for morale purposes, so despite it being a “beneficial” loss for lottery purposes, I think (or hope) they find a way to end the slump.