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Week in Review: Spurs provide a brief respite from losing

The Spurs finally busted their losing streak but immediately reverted back to bad habits.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

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 7: The Spurs finally started shaking things up with some new line-ups but still tied their franchise record losing streak.

Week 8: 1-3 (4-21, 15th in West) — 82-93 L at Houston Rockets; 119-122 L vs. Los Angeles Lakers; 129-115 W vs. Los Angeles Lakers; 110-146 L vs. New Orleans Pelicans

What a roller coaster ride of emotions last week was. It started with a typical disappointing-in-its-own way loss to a rising Houston Rockets team that is very easy to hate (or at least their fans are) but are also a few steps ahead of the Spurs in their rebuild. They have their coach, their main core (other than Amen Thompson) all have a few years of experience, and in the offseason, they added the veteran help needed to take them up to postseason contention. It’s where the Spurs hope to be in a year or so, but in the meantime, they suffered their franchise record 18th straight loss in Houston, where the lineup change of moving Victor Wembanyama to center continued to bear fruit on the defensive end, but the offense couldn’t get anything done.

Next, the Spurs returned home for a miniseries against the Los Angeles Lakers, and many fans, myself included, felt unusually optimistic that this would be where the losing streak ended. With the Lakers coming off a big weekend winning the In-Season Tournament and an injury report screaming that they were going to rest their stars, that optimism proved to be warranted. The win didn’t come in their first game, where LeBron James sat but Wemby and Anthony Davis faced off in an epic duel. The veteran came out on top to add to the losing streak, but not before having to stave off a massive Spurs rally in the fourth quarter, where they came within a missed free throw from tying things up with 20 seconds left after being down by as much as 20. There was hope.

During that game came a fruitful quote from NBA TV announcers Channing Fry and Greg Anthony, where they discussed how as good as Wemby already is, the Spurs can’t expect to win many games with a 19-year-old rookie is their best player, and he needed more help. As if they were foreshadowing to the next game against the Lakers, this time with James but no Davis, Devin Vassell finally broke out for a career-high 36 points, allowing Wemby to be more of a complimentary player/secondary star, and sure enough the Spurs were able to build a 25-point lead early and avoid their signature second-half collapse for their first win in 43 days. Joy and relief rained down from the Frost Bank Center rafters upon players and fans.

However, if you thought they would build on that momentum and use lessons learned to start a winning streak, you were unfortunately mistaken. Taking on another team coming off an IST appearance and on a three-game winning streak in the Pelicans, the Spurs reverted back to their worst form. No one had it going on offense, the defensive rotations were lackadaisical, and another poor third quarter doomed any possible hopes of a comeback, all while New Orleans poured in a franchise-record 22 three-pointers. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in less than 48 hours: these are the Spurs.

Power Rankings

John Schuhmann, — 29 (last week: 29)

OffRtg: 106.8 (29) DefRtg: 118.1 (24) NetRtg: -11.3 (29) Pace: 102.7 (3)

The Spurs put an end to their 18-game losing streak, beating the Lakers pretty handily behind a career-high 36 points from Devin Vassell. They almost lost all of a 25-point lead, but never trailed, and, while they’re still just 2-9 in games they led by double-digits, half of their wins have been wire-to-wire victories.

Three takeaways

1. The Spurs have now scored more than 130 points per 100 possessions as many times as the Celtics (two) and more times than the Warriors (one). They also have three of the four least efficient offensive performances in the league this season, having scored just 82 points on 102 possessions in Houston on Monday.

2. Vassell has seen a jump in effective field goal percentage every season he’s been in the league, with this being the first (of his four) that he’s been above the league average. He’s seen a huge jump in his field goal percentage in the paint (65.3%) from last season (49.7%), but he remains a jump-shooter, with 74% of his shots having come from outside the paint.

3. All four of the Spurs’ wins have come against teams – the Rockets, Suns (x 2) and Lakers – that currently have winning records, and they’re 0-5 against the other 10 teams that are currently below .500. Only the Warriors (4) have played fewer games against the bottom 11.

The Wemby Show is coming to a city near you, as the Spurs will play 13 of their next 18 games on the road. Two of their four wins have come on the road, and they’ll have rest advantages in Chicago and Dallas this week.

Brett Siegel, Clutch Points — 28 (last week: 29)

Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs got the best of LeBron James and the Lakers the other night, as San Antonio’s rookie recorded his eighth straight double-double. “This is what I’m addicted to, this is what I love,” Wemby said after the Spurs defeated the Lakers.

Well Wemby, don’t get used to winning because not much of that is going to happen in San Antonio this season!

Perhaps the Spurs will go on a little bit of a run and who knows, maybe they will spring some upsets and go on a little win streak over the coming weeks. Looking at things from a big picture standpoint though, the Spurs will finish with one of the worst records in the league this season due to the fact that they are rebuilding. Devin Vassell has been great as well next to Wemby, but keep an eye on Keldon Johnson, a player the Spurs could consider moving on from for the right price.

Coming up: Tues. 12/19 at Milwaukee Bucks; Thurs. 12/21 at Chicago Bulls; Sat. 12/23 at Dallas Mavericks

Prediction: 1-2 — It might be generous predicting a win against this schedule, but I’d like to hope Sunday was a one-off and they’ll keep showing improvement. Plus, Wemby tends to show up against his idols, and he’ll have another chance against the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Or maybe some revenge will be in order against the struggling Bulls. We can always hope.