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, and any helpful feedback or suggestions to improve the content is appreciated!
Week 15: The Spurs are slowly returning to form
Did the Spurs play basketball last week? It almost feels like they didn’t since they last played a whopping three days ago (which feels like an eternity), giving them consecutive nights off for the first time in 2022. However, before the break — which extends to Wednesday as they pack and prepare for the Rodeo Road Trip — they did in fact play three games in four nights at home, and it was another week of mixed results in San Antonio.
On their final homestand before the RRT, the Spurs opened the week with a surefire loss suddenly looking extremely winnable, with Steve Kerr using the game to pull a Pop on Spurs fans and rest his top 6 players. The Spurs looked ready to take advantage for three quarters, but then everything fell apart after they built a 17-point lead. The offense once again went cold in the fourth quarter, and the defense couldn’t compensate as they were outscored 35-16 by the Warriors’ backups for the loss. (It certainly didn’t help that Jakob Poeltl and Jock Landale were lost after halftime to concussions after both took an elbow to the head from Jonathan Kuminga, but that wasn’t the reason they lost.)
Next was a rescheduled game as the Miami Heat came to town to make up December 29th’s game that couldn’t happen because the Heat were too depleted. The Spurs probably wish it had happened then because they were playing better basketball at the time, and even without COVID the Heat were far from full strength. Unfortunately, this time they were closer to whole while the Spurs were down their two concussed centers, plus Dejounte Murray and Doug McDermott sat with various “ailments”. It was a throwaway game on a wintery night in San Antonio, and unlike the Warriors they couldn’t pull a miracle out of their hats for a win.
Finally, with most of their inured players returning — including Zach Collins from a 540-day absence after three foot surgeries — the Spurs ended Week 16 the same way they began Week 15: blowing out a Rockets team that looked completely unengaged and uninterested for long stretches. Collins was triumphant in his return with an efficient 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 13 minutes as Poeltl’s backup. A larger sample size will be needed to confirm, but hopefully it’s a sign that a solution to the Spurs’ backup big problem has finally arrived.
Stat of the Week — 1,500 wins for Gregg Popovich
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich now has 1,500 career wins, regular and postseason combined.— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) February 5, 2022
Only coach in NBA history to reach 1,500 total wins.
It’s pretty ridiculous that Pop is technically still chasing the “winningest coach of all time” record since the NBA only officially counts regular season games in that category — he needs six more to get there — but when counting the playoffs, he has by far the most wins of any coach in NBA history. In fact, with Friday’s win over the Rockets he became the first coach to win 1,500 games, regular and postseason. Considering how much the NBA profits from its long postseason, it’s absurd that those wins don’t “officially” count for anything outside its own category, but regardless what few detractors are left are running out of arguments for Pop not being the GOAT.
In case you missed it
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 23 (Last week: 23)
Pace: 100.2 (5) OffRtg: 110.8 (15) DefRtg: 110.6 (18) NetRtg: +0.2 (16)
The Spurs have some wacky home-road splits, where they’ve been much better offensively and much worse defensively at home (where they and their opponents have combined to score 113.7 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been on the road (107.2). Among their rotation guys, Keldon Johnson (58.9% vs. 49.6%), Jakob Poeltl (65.5% vs. 56.7%) and Devin Vassell (56.9% vs. 49.1%) have particularly big home-road differences in their effective field goal percentage. But there are also big differences in turnover rates on both ends of the floor.
Both Johnson (28 points on 11-for-17 shooting) and Poeltl (21 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) had big games as the Spurs got an easy win over Houston on Friday, the end of a stretch where they played 12 of 14 games at the AT&T Center. They scored a season-high 62 restricted-area points, with four of those coming from Zach Collins, who made his season debut almost 18 months since he last played in an NBA game.
The Spurs now begin the annual rodeo trip: eight straight games (five before the break, three after) on the road. If the Blazers are bowing out, the race for the final Play-In spot in the West could be between the Spurs (who haven’t exactly been playing well) and the Pelicans. Those two teams will meet for the second time on Saturday, when the Pels will have a rest advantage. They had one in December too, but the Spurs broke a close game open in the fourth quarter.
ESPN Staff — 23 (Last week: 24)
In summer 2018, Kawhi Leonard’s journey in a Spurs uniform came to an end when he was dealt to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick. While the deal worked out pretty well for the Raptors, the Spurs held on to DeRozan for three seasons but made the playoffs only once and were ousted in the first round that year. DeRozan was sent to Chicago this past offseason in a sign-and-trade deal, while Poeltl has turned into San Antonio’s starting center. — Andrew Lopez
The first week of the Rodeo Road Trip doesn’t look as nice now as it did earlier in the year, even if two of their opponents have losing records. The Cavs are one of the surprise teams in the East, currently sitting in the fourth seed and showing no signs of slowing down. While the Hawks have disappointed this season after a surprise trip to the conference finals last year, they are still a winning team at home, have won seven of their last ten, and present some matchup issues for the Spurs. Finally, there’s the Pelicans, who despite still not having Zion Williamson have improved over the course of January and jumped up to the 10th seed in the West. This could be an important matchup for playin purposes, especially as Portland and Sacramento are rumored to be “selling the house” at the trade deadline (a.k.a. stealth tanking).
Prediction: 1-2 — The Spurs will steal one either in Atlanta or New Orleans.