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 18: The Spurs were well represented at All Star weekend — almost.
It was another short week of basketball for the Spurs, who only had two games on a SEGABABA following the conclusion of the All-Star Break. They kicked off the “official” second half of the season (but far from it numerically) with three games left on the Rodeo Road Trip, beginning in the nation's capital on Friday night.
In a defense-optional game for both squads, the Spurs used a strong second quarter and quick spurt to start the third to get out to a double-digit lead against a Wizards club that has a better record but was missing Bradley Beal and newly-acquired Kristaps Porzingis. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep up the effort, and twice Washington was able to force overtime after Dejounte Murray — who otherwise had an impressive 31-13-14 triple-double — made poor decisions with the ball their final offensive possessions. Fortunately, the Spurs prevailed in the second OT in no small part thanks to career-high scoring nights from Jakob Poeltl (28 points, 12-15 shooting) and Keldon Johnbson (32 points, 5-9 from three).
After their top three players each put in 40+ minutes the night before, the Spurs “rested” all three the next night against the Miami Heat. While no one would have blamed them for getting blown out by the top team in the East under such circumstances, they admirably fought to the bitter end, using a strong first quarter to get on top early, then making several comeback attempts in the second half to nearly pull off the upset. Again, it was thanks to a couple of career nights from Devin Vassell (22 points) and Tre Jones (19 points) that they were able to keep hanging tough against a much more talented Heat team.
Stat of the Week(s) — Efficient Lonnie Walker
It’s been mentioned a lot lately, but it can’t be reiterated enough. Over the last five games, with Walker playing as the undisputed sixth man (thanks to Devin Vassell moving to the starting lineup after Derrick White’s departure), he has played possibly his best stretch pf NBA basketball to date, averaging 20 points on 52% shooting and nearly 41% from three on over five attempts per game. Not only that, but he has been hyper efficient at the rim.
Two of the biggest developments for Lonnie as of late have been finishing and a willingness to draw contact on drives.— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) February 27, 2022
The fourth-year swingman is shooting 88.2% at the rim and getting to the line 3.4 times per game across his last five contests.
If the Lonnie we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived for good, there may be hope for his future with the club yet.
In case you missed it
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 19 (Last week: 19)
Pace: 100.4 (4) OffRtg: 111.6 (10) DefRtg: 111.2 (18) NetRtg: +0.4 (16)
The Spurs have climbed back into the top 10 in offensive efficiency, having scored at least 120 points per 100 possessions in six of their 10 February games. Their double-overtime win in Washington on Friday was their second most efficient performance of the month and came with 32 points on 23 clutch possessions. Lonnie Walker IV had nine of their 27 points over the two overtimes and has averaged 20 points on 52% shooting (including 29-for-50 on pull-up 2-pointers) over the last five games.
But the Spurs’ defense has not been good (117.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) over those five games and ranks 22nd this month. They built an early lead in Miami on Saturday, but then allowed the Heat to score 108 points over their final 82 possessions (1.32 per). So they enter Week 20 a game behind the 10th-place Pelicans and with Gregg Popovich still one win shy of tying Don Nelson atop the all-time list.
With Sacramento and Charlotte on the schedule, history could certainly be made this week. The Spurs are tied (with Houston) for the league’s worst record (2-5) in rest-advantage games, they have just one left on their schedule, and it’s Thursday against the Kings (who are in New Orleans the night before).
ESPN Staff — 23 (Last week: 22)
Friday’s win over the Wizards put Gregg Popovich one victory shy of tying Don Nelson for the most wins all time by a coach. The Spurs did so by scoring the most they ever have in a game under Popovich, putting up 157 points in the double-overtime victory. The only other time the Spurs scored at least 150 for Popovich was on Jan. 10, 2019, when they hit 154 in another double-overtime victory, that one over Oklahoma City. — Andrew Lopez
Prediction: 2-1 — The Spurs have lost both matchups against the Grizzlies this season, and while they haven’t been blowouts, the matchup issues they present don’t inspire much hope for an upset. However, the remaining two games are very winnable, assuming the Spurs take them seriously. They shouldn’t have any issue taking down the new-look Kings in their first home game in nearly four weeks (although the “first game back” from the RRT has often been a problem for the Spurs). Charlotte is also down right now, having lost eight of their last ten, so now is the time to strike and steal a win.