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Week in Review: The Spurs are showing heart but still can’t get over the hump

Four games against talented but struggling teams was not enough to end the Spurs losing streak.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/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 4: The Spurs’ home woes continued with two more blown double-digit leads, including one to a slumping Memphis team missing seven rotation players.

Week 5: 0-4 (3-14, 15th in West) — 99-124 L vs. Los Angeles Clippers; 102-109 L vs. Los Angeles Clippers; 112-118 L @ Golden State Warriors; 120-132 L @ Denver Nuggets

The Spurs have had bad scheduling luck lately, mostly in the sense that, desperate for a confidence-inducing win, they keep getting teams that have been slumping for various reasons but just happen to figure it out right before they arrive. The Spurs faced three such opponents this week, beginning with a home mini-series against a team that slaughtered them earlier in the season but had seen a lot of change since: the Los Angeles Clippers.

Since trading for James Harden, the Clippers had gone 0-5, making it look like the Spurs would have an opportunity to get some revenge. Instead, one game before coming to San Antonio, Russell Westbrook offered to move to a bench role, and the Clippers started finding their stride. Even if they weren’t perfect, the star power of those two plus Kawhi Leonard and Paul George was just too much talent for the Spurs to overcome in both games, especially as they continue their trend of horrid third quarters while allowing game-defining runs to their opponent. (If nothing else, the second matchup will always be remembered for Pop grabbing the microphone and telling the fans that, after five years, it was time to stop booing Leonard. Not one of his more endearing moments, to be sure, and it will be interesting to see if the fans remember it when they return on Thursday.)

Next, it was time to travel to Golden State to take on a Warriors team that was missing Draymond Green, Steph Curry had been in and out with knee issues, and for some reason they had been equally as horrible at home as the Spurs. With another opportunity to steal a win from a struggling but should-be-contending team when all is sand and done, the Spurs couldn’t contain Curry, but to their credit they kept fighting and even gave their opponent a late scare by cutting the lead to three before the Warriors made their free throws down the stretch to prevent the full comeback.

Finally, the week ended in the home of the defending champion Nuggets, who themselves have struggled a bit while missing Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon, but they still have the best player in the league in Nikola Jokic, and although Victor Wembanyama managed to show his own potential and wow the Denver crowd with some big plays, the Spurs still had no chance of stopping the MVP, ending another week without a win and extending their losing streak to 12.


Power Rankings

John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 28 (last week: 26)

OffRtg: 106.3 (28) DefRtg: 119.0 (27) NetRtg: -12.7 (30) Pace: 102.5 (4)

The Spurs’ last three losses have been to the Clippers, Warriors and Nuggets by a total of just 25 points. But their losing streak is now at 12 games and they’re the streaking team that doesn’t get to play one of the others (see Wizards-Pistons) this week.

Three takeaways

1. Their loss in Denver on Sunday was the Spurs’ most efficient offensive game (120 points on 105 possessions) during the losing streak, and came with six players scoring in double figures. One of the six was Victor Wembanyama, who’s scored at least 20 points in three straight games for the first time.

2. There have been three games this season where a player had at least four steals and four blocks, and two of the three have come from rookies: Ausar Thompson (four and four) vs. Phoenix and Victor Wembanyama (six and four) in Denver on Sunday. Wembanyama was the first rookie with at least 10 steals + blocks in a game since Nerlens Noel in Feb. 2015.

3. Devin Vassell returned from a three-game absence on Wednesday, but has come off the bench in each of the last three games. The Spurs’ starting lineup with Vassell has been outscored by 14.6 points per 100 possessions in its 84 minutes, but the lineup with Malaki Branham in Vassell’s place has been worse (minus-24.8 per 100).

Tre Jones was a plus-14 in Denver on Sunday and the Spurs have still outscored their opponents by 8.1 points per 100 possessions in his 193 minutes on the floor alongside Wembanyama. This team isn’t going to be good either way, but playing those two together for more than 14 minutes a night might be helpful.

Wembanyama has played in all 17 of the Spurs games, which come at a faster pace than he’s used to. The next two weeks will be more like the French league, with the Spurs having just four games over the next 14 days, though their two this week are a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday.

Brett Siegel, Clutch Points — 27 (last week: 26)

Victor Wembanyama has been fantastic since his first game with the San Antonio Spurs, but we are beginning to see Wemby settle down and look comfortable in the NBA. Consistency is what the Spurs have been preaching to their rookie big man and he has recorded 22 points in three straight games now as a result. The Spurs may only have three wins, but this is a young team that can fight against anyone in the league and create some headaches due to their size and athleticism. If Wembanyama can continue to play at the pace he currently finds himself at, the rookie will be in the All-Star Game come February.

Yossi Gozlan, Hoops Hype — 28 (last week: N/A)

The Spurs continue to play Jeremy Sochan at point guard despite how disastrous their offense is instead of playing Tre Jones. After decades of winning at the highest levels, it almost feels like head coach Gregg Popovich is now attempting to lose at the highest levels. They are now on a 12-game losing streak that could potentially extend into December.


Coming up: Thurs. 11/30 vs. Atlanta Hawks; Fir 12/1 @ New Orleans Pelicans

Prediction: 1-1 — With every loss, the Spurs are closer to their next win, right? Even if I believe the losing streak will continue, I’ll keep giving them a chance each week. The Hawks are once again a middling team, and one has to believe the Spurs will eventually find a way to hold a lead at home. Maybe this is the week, and a three-day break can only help.