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Week in Review: The importance of protecting home leads

No team should ever be 0-4 when leading by double-figures at home.

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Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

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 2: A wild 2-1 week featured the Spurs sweeping a miniseries in Phoenix, both with a 20-point comeback and then staving one off, before blowing a double-digit lead at home to the Raptors.

Week 3: 0-4 (3-7 overall, 13th in West) — 111-152 L @ Indiana Pacers; 105-126 L @ New York Knicks; 110-117 L vs. Minnesota Timberwolves; 113-118 @ vs. Miami Heat

If you look at last week in a vacuum, the Spurs actually improved each game, going from massive blowout, to competitive blowout, to two competitive losses, all while the margin of defeat decreased with each game. When you take off the desperate attempt to view losses with rose-colored glasses look at the wide view again, it’s still disappointing. Yes, this is the youngest team in the NBA, and they are still learning and experimenting, but there’s some things that just shouldn’t happen, at least not often, and blowing double-digit leads at home is one of them. It used to be something that almost never happened to any team, but instead it’s happened in all four of the Spurs’ home losses so far.

Forget the road losses for a moment — Indiana was unstoppably hot in one of those games where you just tip your hat to the opponent and move on, and the Spurs fought much harder in New York — but even the youngest teams should be better at home, and in some ways they have been, making the losses all the more maddening. Beyond one of their two wins in Phoenix, the Spurs have started slow on the road and forced themselves to attempt massive rallies if they hope to win. They succeeded once in the other win in Phoenix, but the rest have gotten too out of hand to fully overcome.

The solution? Start stronger. They’ve done that at home, getting out to double-digit leads against the Mavericks, Raptors, and this week the Timberwolves and Heat, but they preceded to lose all four games, usually as a result of taking their foot off the gas and moving away from what got them there (which is often team offense and working from the inside out, establishing a presence down low to open things up on the perimeter). On the road this would be more forgivable, but not being able to ride the energy of your home crowd to victory makes life much more difficult for a team that is still learning to play 48 minutes.

If they could protect those home leads, they’d be looking at a 7-3 record, having weathered a rough opening schedule and setting the tone for what could be a special season. Instead, they’re sitting at 3-7 after three weeks and still trying to figure a lot out what to do (which, granted, is more in line with what we expected before the season started). It’s still way too early to write them off, and it wouldn’t take much to turn things around, but that is currently where things stand, and it’s up to the players to change the trend.

Power Rankings

John Schuhmann, — 25 (last week: 22)

OffRtg: 108.4 (26) DefRtg: 119.8 (29) NetRtg: -11.3 (30) Pace: 101.8 (8)

After winning two games in Phoenix, the Spurs have lost five straight, with a second loss by at least 40 points included. But they were competitive against both the Wolves and Heat over the weekend.

Three takeaways

1. The Spurs rank last in opponent effective field goal percentage at 58%. They had their best game in that regard (50.6% for the Heat) on Sunday, but Miami was 28-for-30 from the free-throw line and committed just seven turnovers.

2. Victor Wembanyama registered a positive plus-minus in both of the weekend losses, and the Spurs have outscored their opponents by 19.3 points per 100 possessions in 136 minutes with he and Tre Jones on the floor together. As the Spurs lost consecutive games by 62 total points last week, the Jones-Wembanyama combo was a plus-1 in 17 total minutes.

3. Devin Vassell is taking some tough shots (because somebody has to score), but is still registering career-high marks (by wide margins) in effective field goal percentage (60.9%) and true shooting percentage (63.5%). His 16-for-29 (55%) from mid-range ranks second among 35 players with at least 25 attempts.

The multiple blowout losses are still skewing the Spurs’ overall numbers quite a bit. But if you’ve suffered multiple blowout losses just three weeks into the season, you’re probably not a good team.

One of those blowout losses (at Indiana) came in the Spurs’ first rest-disadvantage game, and their second rest-disadvantage game is Saturday against Memphis. Before they get there, they’ll play a couple of fun In-Season Tournament games, including a rematch of what was an entertaining preseason game in Oklahoma City.

Brett Siegel, Clutch Points — 24 (last week: 20)

Victor Wembanyama continues to do his thing for the San Antonio Spurs, yet his team has lost five straight games. The Spurs rank amongst the bottom of the league in offensive and defensive production, plus they have the worst average scoring differential (-11.2) in the NBA. Keldon Johnson has taken a step back offensively since Wemby’s arrival and San Antonio’s point guard experiment with Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan has not been too favorable. After beginning the year 3-2 and looking like a young team gaining momentum, the Spurs are now 3-7.

Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today — 30 (last week: N/A)

Rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama has been impressive but this Spurs rebuild isn’t happening overnight. They have the worst net rating at minus-12.7 points per 100 possessions, nearly five points worse than the 29th-ranked team.

Coming up: Tues. 11/14 @ Oklahoma City Thunder (In-season Tournament); Fri. 11/17 vs. Sacramento Kings (In-Season Tournament); Sat. 11/18 @ Memphis Grizzlies

Prediction: 1-2 — The last two weeks have certainly shown I have no idea what’s going on with this team (when you expect them to win, they lose, and vice versa). Still, I’ll predict that they finally turn things around at some point this week, either at home against the Kings or on the road against the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies, who are one of the few teams with a worse record than the Spurs at this point.