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Spurs Week in Review: Pop is tired of his team’s porous defense

The losses expected, but Pop only take so much bad defense.

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Charlotte Hornets Nell Redmond-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 17: Even a roster shake-up at the trade deadline couldn’t stop the Spurs’ losing streak.

Week 18: 0-2 (14-45 overall, 29th in NBA) — 109-117 L @ Cleveland Cavaliers; 110-120 L @ Charlotte Hornets

Last week was this season’s Spurs in a nutshell. They played two different teams on opposite ends of the standings and still came out with similar results: fight hard regardless of the opponent, never give up, but the defense is too porous, and all it takes is one bad stretch and a double-digit lead for the opponent for the game to be lost.

First was the fourth seed in the East: a lengthy Cavs team that should be a match-up nightmare for the Spurs. While it started that way as Cleveland raced out to a 34-19 lead after one quarter, the Spurs fought back on the back of efficient games from Keldon Johnson and Malaki Branham, outscoring the Cavs by 8 points in the second half. They ultimately couldn’t stop Donovan Mitchell and his 41 points, but like always it was good to see them respond to early controversy when they could have easily folded.

Next was the fourth worst team in the league, and this is where “same story” becomes more frustrating. While it was a relatively even game throughout, with the Hornets kept gradually pulling away by a few more points each quarter, Gregg Popovich had finally seen enough of his team’s inept defense, even against bad teams. After losing their franchise record 14th straight game, he let his team know afterwards, both in person and through the media, that they have no longer have any excuses for being so poor on the defensive end, and the “youth” card is off the table.

The remainder of the Rodeo Road trip doesn’t offer any guaranteed chances to end the streak, but this team has shown they can hang with anyone, so it will be interesting to see if they respond to some rare public criticism from their coach and crank things up on defense over their final 23 games. They’re pretty much guaranteed a bottom four spot at this point, so it’s time for players to start proving themselves for next season. A morale-boosting win wouldn’t hurt, either.

Lottery Odds

As previously mentioned, the gap is so huge between the fourth and fifth teams (8 games in the loss column) that the Spurs are all but guaranteed a bottom four spot in the standings. Now, it will pretty much be up to the luck of the draw.


John Schuhmann, — N/A (last week: 30)

coming soon

Zach Harper, The Athletic — 30 (last week: 30)

1st Q: -12.9 net rating (previous: -17.0) | Ranked 29th (previous: 29th)

2nd Q: -7.7 net rating (previous: -4.2) | Ranked 28th (previous: 22nd)

3rd Q: -4.0 net rating (previous: -1.7) | Ranked 23rd (previous: 19th tied)

4th Q: -14.8 net rating (previous: -18.0) | Ranked 30th (previous: 30th) Clutch: -19.4 net rating (previous: -18.1) | Ranked 30th (previous: 26th) | 21 games (6-15) (Previous: 9 games, 3-6)

Takeaway: Not much has changed for the Spurs, and if anything, they’ve sunken even more into this tanking season. They’ve set a franchise record with 14 straight losses, they moved off of Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson, and everything is about getting these young guys even more burn on the court. It’s so bad between the first and fourth quarters that I look at a -4.0 net rating in the third and think, “Hey, look at those halftime adjustments!” My biggest concern would be they’re not even competing in garbage time, and they should at least do that.

Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports — 30 (last week: 30)

The Spurs have won two games in 2023 ... yes, you read that correctly. They also have the league’s worst net rating, by far, at minus-10.1. It’s by design, of course, to try to get more ping pong balls, but it hasn’t been pretty of late. On the plus side, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson look like serious pieces moving forward, and rookie Jeremy Sochan has shown intriguing flashes.

Coming up: Thurs. 2/23 @ Dallas Mavericks; Sat. 2/25 @ Utah Jazz

Prediction: 0-2 — I know I keep thinking that one win is coming, it just hasn’t yet (even with games against Detroit and Charlotte the last two weeks), so I’m taking the skeptical route to see if I can reverse-jinx things. The Spurs unfortunately have to face the ultimate thorn in their side yet again as Kyrie Irving has teamed up with Luka Doncic, and while the Jazz are certainly beatable, the Spurs haven’t given me any reason to believe they’ll bust their losing streak there. Is that negative enough?