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 1: A 1-2 start, including a 40-point blowout loss to the Clippers, reminded the Spurs that the regular is a whole different animal than the preseason.
Week 2: 2-1 (3-3 overall, 9th in West) — 115-114 W @ Phoenix Suns; 132-121 W @ Phoenix Suns; 116-123 OT L vs. Toronto Raptors
In perhaps one of the wildest weeks in regular season history, the Spurs pulled off three different feats that some teams don’t even accomplish once in a single season: they rallied from a 20+ point deficit for a win, blew a 20+ point deficit but pulled themselves back together and held on for the win, and then proceeded to build another 20+ point lead but blew it and lost. As Victor Wembanyama said was one of the biggest lessons he's learned about the NBA so far, it’s that 20 points means a lot less than he’s used to.
After the way last week ended, most Spurs fans would have happily accepted a 2-1 result with the schedule they faced, and for the most part it still is a good result, it just once again ended poorly. With a daunting road miniseries at Phoenix, the Spurs at least had a chance in the first outing with Bradley Beal and Devin Booker out, but they still had Kevin Durant to deal with. As had been the case for most of the season so far, they struggled to get Wemby involved early, but once he got going in the second half, they came all the way back from 20 down and won in dramatic fashion in the final seconds, capped by a Wemby putback and Keldon Johnson backcourt steal-and-layup in the final seconds.
Two nights later, with Booker returning and the Suns likely having revenge on their minds, many probably would have expected them to come out stronger. Instead, the Spurs were still carrying the momentum from the previous game and got out to a surprising 27-point lead, in no small part thanks to Wemby finally getting involved early in the game. However, as young teams are wont to do, they took their foot off the gas, Booker began finding his rhythm, and just like that the Suns had tied the game. But unlike most young teams, the Spurs recovered and responded to hold on for the win behind a historic 38-point, 10-rebound outing from their French phenom.
Finally, the Spurs returned home for one quick game before heading back out on the road, and after all that, it seemed like a comfortable win against a struggling Raptors team would be in order, even without Devin Vassell, who left the second half of the second Suns game with a strained groin. At first that seemed to be the case, as they cruised to a 22-point lead in the first half, but again they let their foot off the gas, Scottie Barnes got hot in the second half, and a series of Spurs blunders led to overtime, where Toronto ran away with all the momentum. The Spurs are showing they can be a very good team for a half, now they need to do it for 48 minutes.
In case you missed it
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 22 (last week: 28)
OffRtg: 109.2 (18) DefRtg: 116.1 (26) NetRtg: -6.9 (28) Pace: 101.6 (9)
The Spurs lost a game by 40 points, and their other five games have been within three points in the last five minutes. They got two impressive clutch wins in Phoenix last week, scoring 19 points (with nine coming from Victor Wembanyama) on just 12 clutch possessions. But they also blew a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead against Toronto on Sunday.
1. With Devin Vassell suffering a groin injury on Thursday, the Spurs had an opportunity to put a point guard in their starting lineup. Instead, they went with Malaki Branham, who shot 8-for-9 against the Raptors. The loss was still the Spurs’ second worst offensive performance of the season, and they’ve scored a paltry 94.8 points per 100 possessions in 127 minutes with Jeremy Sochan on the floor without Tre Jones.
2. Opponents have shot just 16-for-62 (25.8%) when Wembanyama has been the closest defender when their expected field goal percentage on those shots would be 49.1%, according to Second Spectrum tracking. That (-23.3%) is the biggest differential (by a wide margin) among 158 players who’ve defended at least 50 shots. The Spurs still have a bottom-five defense, mostly because they’ve been so bad (123.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) in his 117 minutes off the floor.
3. Wembanyama has got some savvy offensively. Note how he nudged Kevin Durant under Zach Collins’ cross-screen so he could flash into open space and drain a dagger jumper in the second win in Phoenix.
The Spurs’ overall numbers are still suffering from that 40-point loss to the Clippers, and Vassell’s absence hurts. But the two wins in Phoenix (with Vassell missing the second half of the second one) show that they can compete on any given night.
The loss to Toronto on Sunday was the first half of the Spurs’ first back-to-back, and Wembanyama played a season-high 38 minutes. We’ll see if there’s any kind of maintenance program with the rookie when they play in Indiana on Monday night.
A CAREER NIGHT FOR VICTOR WEMBANYAMA.— NBA (@NBA) November 3, 2023
38 PTS (career-high)
Spurs got the W in a THRILLER in Phoenix. pic.twitter.com/A5g7xMAXTI
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports — N/A (last week: 25)
N/A — come back later
Brett Siegel, Clutch Points — 20 (last week: 26)
The San Antonio Spurs are absolutely one of the teams of the week in the NBA Power Rankings, as they rise up six spots from where they were a week ago. Victor Wembanyama is everything we had hoped for and more. What he did against the Phoenix Suns in two games was amazing. Not only was he instrumental to their 20-point comeback in one game, but then Wemby went out and put up 38 points against Kevin Durant.
Like the Magic in the East, the Spurs are a young, emerging team in the Western Conference that is only going to get better with time. Unfortunately, their growth could be stunted slightly with Devin Vassell out of the rotation due to a groin injury. Nonetheless, Wembanyama is going to do everything he can to put San Antonio in a position to win games, even though there will be growing pains like the huge blown lead against Toronto.
Coming up: Mon. 11/6 @ Indiana Pacers; Wed. 11/8 @ New Yorks Knicks; Fri. 11/10 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (in-season tournament); Sun. 11/12 vs. Miami Heat
Prediction: 2-2 — We’re just two weeks in, and as this last week showed, this team is already impossible to predict. All four of the games this week are against teams currently within a game of the Spurs and should be winnable, but as the Spurs have shown us, that doesn’t always matter. The inconsistent Spurs could just as easily go 4-0 as they could 0-4 this week, so I’ll just split the difference and call it 2-2 (although I’m leaning towards 3-1).