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 14: A relaxing schedule of just two games gave the Spurs a win against the shorthanded Nets and a close loss to the Clippers despite a season-high from Kawhi Leonard.
You can file away those missing persons reports, because I’m back! Okay, I doubt I was missed that much, but some may have noticed a gap in coverage from me between last week’s Week in Review and yesterday’s article on Jeremy Sochan’s in-season improvement (shameless plug). That’s because I was in . . . drum roll . . . San Antonio for a weeklong meeting for my fulltime job. It was fun but also weird being a tourist in my home town (until three years ago). When I wasn’t sitting in a hotel conference room, I got to roam the Riverwalk, eat good food (Houston Tex-Mex just isn’t the same), and meet some co-workers from other parts of the country that I frequently email or talk to over the phone but had never actually met in-person.
The downside (or perhaps upside, in this case) was in an odd twist of fate, I was unable to see the first three Spurs games of the week because my hotel didn’t have Bally Sports, and League Pass was blacked out. (I now fully understand everyone who had been pleading for a Bally Sports streaming service.) As it turns out, it seems I didn’t miss much, as two of those three games were massive blowouts of disastrous defensive proportions.
After entering halftime tied against a struggling Portland club that had lost 8 of their last 10, a horrible third quarter in which the Spurs were outscored 45-27 led to the 147-127 loss. Next was a much more competitive game against LeBron James and his struggling Lakers, but once again late-game execution let the Spurs down after holding the lead but getting outscored by 10 points in fourth quarter. The last game I missed was the next night against the Clippers: a game the Spurs were never really in while giving up 35 points to Paul George just a week after Leonard torched them for 36.
That’s what I missed, but what what I did see was their admirable effort against the Suns back at home — once I was also back at home in Houston. Phoenix has not been the same team without Devin Booker, sinking all the way from the top to the 10th seed in the West, but they still out-talent the Spurs without him. The good guys fought back from 13 down and forced overtime before running out of gas and Mikal Bridges going off in OT, but it was a fun game and the first time two Spurs under the age of 23 — in this case Sochan and Keldon Johnson — scored 30 or more points in a game.
Well, look what we have here. The Spurs’ 0-4 week combined with two straight wins for the Charlotte Hornets has the Silver and Black back in the bottom three and sharing the top odds for the no. 1 pick. Wemby Watch is alive and well!
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 30 (last week: 27)
OffRtg: 110.6 (28) DefRtg: 120.1 (30) NetRtg: -9.5 (30) Pace: 101.5 (8)
One of these days, the Spurs will get a win in a game they trailed by double-digits. Their latest opportunity came against Phoenix on Saturday, when they came back from 13 points down early in the fourth quarter, but missed on three (very contested) chances to win the game in regulation and then allowed the Suns to score 18 points on 12 possessions in overtime. The Spurs are now 0-34 (every other team has at least three wins) in games they’ve trailed by at least 10 points.
The defense wasn’t so bad in regulation on Saturday, but the Spurs have allowed more than 140 points per 100 possessions three times on their five-game losing streak. Every other team has allowed more than 140 per 100 a total of 10 times all season, and two of the four most efficient offensive performances in the league this season (more than 145 per 100) have come from the Clippers against the Spurs in the last 10 days.
There have been some positives on the other end of the floor, including Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan combining for 64 points and 10 assists in the loss to Phoenix. Sochan was 5-for-5 from the line, now 44-for-57 (77%) since he started shooting free throws one-handed, up from 11-for-24 (46%) prior to that. (Some other guys around the league could learn a lesson from the rookie.)
The league’s worst defense will face two top-five offenses – those of the Kings and Sixers – as the Spurs’ four-game homestand wraps up this week. The Spurs won in Philly in Week 1, but have allowed more than 130 per 100 in both of their games against Sacramento (two double-digit losses) thus far.
Zach Harper, The Athletic — 30 (last week: 28)
Buyers or sellers? Sellers. The Spurs started this a year ago when the moved Derrick White and Thaddeus Young at the deadline for first-round picks. Then they moved Dejounte Murray this summer for picks. The Spurs are looking for assets and Wembanyama.
Players to dangle: Jakob Poeltl, Josh Richardson and Zach Collins. Poeltl is going to be one of the main targets for teams looking to add skilled size at the deadline. He should be able to fetch them a first-round pick. Richardson is a decent 3-and-D option, and Collins could provide interior depth for a team if healthy.
Enzo Flojo, Clutch Points — 30 (last week: 28)
We still cannot get over the fact the Spurs upset the Nets a couple of weeks ago. At the same time, we’re not at all surprised they’ve lost all five games since then. That’s just the sad state of things in San Antonio. Keldon Johnson, however, has been legit.
(I’m going insert my two cents here and assume Mr. Flojo is mostly a scoreboard watcher. Not saying he has to watch every Spurs game, but his observations just read like someone who doesn’t really know what’s going on. The Spurs aren’t in a “sad state”, they are purposefully rebuilding. And he seems completely unaware that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were out for that Nets game. A quick glance at the box score would answer his question. End of rant.)
Prediction: 1-2 — This week features the final homestand before the Rodeo Road Trip, and it begins with the type of match-up that has led to most of the Spurs’ wins this season: at home against a middling club (although the Wizards are on the rise). The Kings are comfortably in the top three in the West (how?!), and the 76ers have risen up to second in the East after a rough start to the season that including a surprising early loss to the Spurs.