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 18: Gregg Popovich called his team out for their porous defense ahead of the All-Star break.
Week 19: 0-2 (14-47 overall, 29th in NBA) — 116-142 L @ Dallas Mavericks; 102-118 L @ Utah Jazz
The 2023 Rodeo Road Trip continues to be a nightmare, especially on defense, and the All-Star Break didn’t provide any relief. The Spurs returned still missing their starting point guard and shooting guard (and power forward for one game), and despite getting called out before the break, they returned playing just as poorly on defense as ever and continued to show they just don’t have what it takes to compete for 48 minutes, which even Pop couldn’t deny any longer.
Before the fourth quarter, their game in Dallas — which started with a 30-minute delay due to condensation on the court — was just like every other Spurs game this season: they got into an early hole but kept competing and didn’t let the game get too far away from them, but then everything completely fell apart. The Mavs exploded for nine threes in the fourth quarter to outscore the helpless Spurs 43-26 and turned what had been a competitive game through three quarters into a massive blowout.
The Spurs then headed to Utah for part one of a miniseries against the Jazz that will conclude the RRT, and they ended up pulling off a complete Jekyll and Hyde act. For a while, it looked like they just might finally bust their historic losing streak. The Spurs owned the Jazz on both sides of the court for a half and some change, getting out to a 14-point lead early in the third quarter, but once again, for reasons no one can explain, everything just fell apart. The team-oriented offense the Spurs had displayed up until that point degraded to poor passing and shot selection, and they could no longer get enough stops to protect what should have been a comfortable lead, extending their losing streak to 16.
Not only have the cellar-dwellers pulled well away from the fifth-worst Orlando Magic, but now the Spurs have also built a four-game cushion between themselves and the fourth-worst Hornets, so they are very close the being guaranteed a bottom three spot and equal odds at the top four picks. So yeah, you can afford give us a taste of victory again, Spurs.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 30 (last week: 30)
OffRtg: 109.6 (28) DefRtg: 120.1 (30) NetRtg: -10.5 (30) Pace: 101.7 (7)
It’s been 41 days since the Spurs last scored more points than their opponent, and their losing streak has hit 16 games. Their loss in Dallas on Thursday was the fourth time they’ve allowed at least 140 points per 100 possessions, and their loss in Utah on Saturday was the 13th time they’ve scored less than a point per possession. They actually led the Utah game by 14 points (their fourth double-digit lead during the streak), but they were outscored by 28 points (shooting 1-for-16 from 3-point range) over the last 21 1/2 minutes and it was the 12th of the 16 losses that have been by double-digits.
Rookies Malaki Branham (23 points in Dallas) and Jeremy Sochan (22 in Utah) continue to be bright spots, but Tre Jones has missed eight of the last nine games. The rodeo trip (nine straight road games spanning All-Star weekend) comes to an end in Utah on Tuesday, and there’s hope that Devin Vassell (who’s missed the last 24 games) will return against Indiana on Thursday.
The Spurs do have a win over the Pacers this season, though that came in Week 1. No matter who’s in the lineup, their best chances to pick up a win or two will be a home-and-home set against the Rockets this weekend, their last two games within the bottom four in the league. Their two December wins over Houston were two of the 12 times this season that the Spurs have scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions.
Zach Harper, The Athletic — 30 (last week: 30)
First-quarter grade: D+ | Ranked 30th
Halfway grade: D | Ranked 29th
Third-quarter grade: F
Aside from Jeremy Sochan highlights, the team is almost unwatchable. There is some young talent on the team, but nothing that makes you feel like they have a set building block. That’s the point of this season, to go get that guy. In the process, the Spurs are throwing out the worst defensive rating in NBA history, and it’s not even close. Yes, Detroit and Houston have also been historically inept on that end of the floor, but the Spurs are even making them look defensively competent.
Prediction update: The Spurs don’t win more than 22 games this season… This looked a little precarious the first two months of the season, but their 16-game losing streak all but locked this one up. They do not have nine more victories in them this season.
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports — 29 (last week: 30)
It’s a strange existence where every loss is actually seen as a positive for the ultimate future of the franchise, but maybe, like, one win would be nice. Sixteen in a row with no signs of slowing. At least Malaki Branham is getting his reps, averaging 19.3 points this week on 57/42/100 shooting splits.
Coming up: Tues. 2/28 @ Utah Jazz; Thurs. 3/2 vs. Indiana Pacers; Sat. 3/4 vs. Houston Rockets; Sun. 3/5 @ Houston Rockets
Prediction: 2-2 — This seems like a ridiculous prediction, but I have to go with my gut. Believe or not, the Spurs have beaten two of these teams this season. They beat the Pacers on the road for their first win of the season back in October, and they have won both meetings with the equally as hapless Rockets so far (who, unlike the Spurs, appear to not even be trying). I think the Spurs get at least one two against Houston, and then either get revenge on the Jazz on Tuesday or take advantage of being back under their home lights against Indiana after such a rough RRT. (Getting Tre Jones and/or Devin Vassell back wouldn’t hurt, either.)