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 20: Spurs’ inability to close games rears its ugly head again
2-2 is not exactly a surprising outcome based on last week’s schedule, it’s who the wins and losses came against that’s another story. If you told me before this week the Spurs would win two games, my guess would have been against the Raptors and Pacers, even if the Lakers are slumping themselves. Instead, the Spurs went the opposite, winning against the two more exciting opponents of the week — with two big accomplishments along the way — while disappointing in their two losses.
With Anthony Davis already out, the Spurs chances of beating the Lakers became even more realistic when LeBron James decided to sit it out. Combine their absences with Russell Westbrook being no closer to finding his groove, the Spurs stayed ahead for most of the game and came through in the clutch for Pop’s 1,335th career win while busting a four-game losing streak along the way.
Coming into the Raptors game, it seemed like the Spurs would have a good chance to break the record for Pop against a team that had gone 3-7 over their last 10 games, but Fred VanVleet returned from injury, and after spending the first half shaking off the rust, he turned it on in the second. In a rare sight this season, the Spurs didn’t seem interested in fighting back in the second half blowout loss.
After that performance, likely no one predicted the Jazz game would be the opponent the Spurs would use to finally get win number 1,336 for Pop, but they did, and in the most unexpected way possible: by coming from behind in the fourth quarter. Heading into the game, the Spurs were 0-33 when entering the fourth quarter behind this season, be it by one point or double digits, but they busted that streak in a big way after entering down 10 to the Jazz, and the deficit would stretch to 15 before they made the comeback. Talk about a fitting way to dramatically win it for Pop.
Finally, the next night, Pop decided to rest his top three players, essentially making what otherwise likely would have been a win against a shorthanded, slumping Pacers team a throwaway loss for a tired group of backups. (Maybe it was all the suicides Pop said he’d make the team run at shootaround after they doused him with water the night before?) Between that and giving Toronto (whose lottery-protected first round pick is owned by the Spurs) a win to keep their playoff hopes alive and well, draft watchers are probably pretty happy with the week.
Stat of the Week: 1,336 regular season wins for Pop
Pop didn’t want to acknowledge it, but his players gave him no other choice. After his record-breaking win against the Jazz, Pop tried to quickly talk to Quinn Snyder and get out, but his players had other ideas. After former Spurs Rudy Gay and Juancho Hernangomez stalled his exit, the current Spurs squad surrounded him, jumping up and down cheering, forcing a smile out of Pop before he squeezed out of the swarm and hurried away from the spotlight.
The moment history was made.— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 12, 2022
Couldn't let Coach Pop leave the court without a celebration! pic.twitter.com/eL9Td1Sr00
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 23 (Last week: 24)
Pace: 100.6 (4) OffRtg: 111.1 (17) DefRtg: 111.4 (18) NetRtg: -0.3 (18)
Gregg Popovich is the all-time wins leader, and he passed Don Nelson with the Spurs getting their first win of the season (they were previously 0-33) in a game they trailed after the third quarter. It was also just their fourth win (they were previously 3-14) against the top six teams in the West. Only three of their 40 fourth-quarter points against the Jazz came from beyond the arc and the team that ranks 28th in clutch offense scored 20 points on 13 clutch possessions. Keldon Johnson made the big play, rebounding Josh Richardson’s missed free throw and draining two freebies of his own.
With the injury to Brandon Ingram, the Spurs have some new life in the race for the final Western Conference Play-In spot. They went into their game against the Pacers on Saturday just a game behind the 10th-place Pelicans. But they came out of it with a double-digit defeat to a team that was 3-12 since Feb. 1. The Spurs are the first team done with playing the opposite conference, and they went just 10-20 against the East. Only the Rockets and Clippers have allowed the Pacers to score more efficiently this season.
The Spurs still have two games remaining against the Pelicans, and one of those is Friday in San Antonio. The Spurs have scored almost 122 points per 100 possessions as they’ve won the first two meetings.
ESPN Staff — 23 (Last week: 24)
When the Spurs defeated the Jazz on Friday night to make Gregg Popovich the NBA’s all-time leader in regular-season coaching victories, they did so by accomplishing something they hadn’t all season. Entering the fourth quarter, the Spurs trailed 74-64 before coming back to win. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, it’s the first time all season the Spurs trailed by 10 entering the fourth quarter and won the game. They were 0-33 prior to that in such situations this season. — Andrew Lopez
Prediction: 2-2 — Part of me really wants to say 3-1, but the pessimistic approach seems to be working, so I’m rolling with it. Three of the four teams they play this week are all in slumps, posting a losing record over their last 10 games (although recent losses to the Raptors and Hornets have shown that doesn’t always matter to this Spurs squad).
Minnesota is the one team that is currently on a roll, but it still feels like a wildcard game to me. (Maybe I just haven’t got past the stigma of being a losing team they have set for themselves over the last 17 years.) The Spurs should beat the Thunder, and so far they’ve won both games against the Pelicans this season, plus have the added motivation trying to get the 10th seed back from them. Finally, no matter what kind of slump they’re in, a road game against the Warriors is the one I just don’t see this team winning — although they did win their other game there back in December, so you never know!