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 15: I missed three of the Spurs four losses because of work, but the one I did see — an OT loss to the Suns — was better of the four.
Facing their final homestand before their annual Rodeo Road Trip, the Spurs were hoping to end their losing streak before heading out on the road for a whole month. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as they instead extended their losing streak to eight games and piled up more injuries in the process.
The week began with the Spurs hoping to maintain their 22-game winning streak against the Wizards at home. They started the game strong, with some free-flowing offense to take a solid lead after one quarter, but foul trouble for their bigs and the Wizards switching to a zone defense completely threw them off their game. Being outscored 33-19 in the second quarter put them in the dreaded double-digit hole they have yet to crawl out of this season, and despite remaining competitive for the rest of the game, they never recovered, and Washington got its first ever win in the AT&T Center and first in San Antonio this century.
Next was the rising Sacramento Kings, and like the Spurs’ first game of the week, this one followed a similar script: strong first quarter followed by poor second dooms them for the rest of the game, but the game was marred from the beginning after Jeremy Sochan (back) and Tre Jones both (foot) left minutes apart in the first quarter with injuries and did not return. Still, the Spurs made a run in the second half to try and get back in the game, but again that double-digit deficit was too much to overcome.
Finally, in their last home game until March, the Spurs welcomed a much improved 76ers team than the one they upset during their 5-2 start to the season (that now seems like it was an eternity ago). Down three starters and a rotation player, the Spurs were no match for Philly but played with their never-say-die attitude to give them a late scare. The brightest part of the week was after Jeremy Sochan had a big week last week, this was Malaki Branham’s time to shine after he averaged 24 points across the last two games.
No one likes to see 8 straight losses, but it’s paying off in the only way such a bad season can: keeping them in the mix for the top overall pick. The bottom four teams are all within a game of each other, even though the Spurs have had the worst ten-game stretch of the four. It continues to be quite the battle for the bottom three.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 30 (last week: 30)
OffRtg: 110.7 (28) DefRtg: 120.4 (30) NetRtg: -9.7 (30) Pace: 101.4 (8)
The Spurs’ two February games have been the first time they’ve shot better than 54% from the field twice in a row. A Tre Jones injury has given Malaki Branham the opportunity to play big minutes, and the rookie has averaged 24 points on 20-for-29 shooting over the two games. Most of his production against the Sixers on Friday came off the dribble and he’s actually shot 50% (33-for-66) as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, according to Synergy tracking, though turnovers have been an issue.
And that’s kind of been the story for the Spurs in general over these last two games. While they’ve shot well from the field, only 15 of their 100 made buckets came from 3-point range, they’ve committed 15 more turnovers than their opponents, and also attempted 38 fewer free throws. They’ve lost eight straight and now hit the road (where they haven’t won since Dec. 19) for the annual rodeo trip, nine straight road games spanning the All-Star break.
Jakob Poeltl is on an expiring contract and would certainly be of use (as a defensive big man who can also drop a few dimes) to a few contenders for the next few months. But Poeltl is still just 27 years old and (unlike Mason Plumlee in Charlotte) doesn’t have any younger centers playing behind him, so he could certainly be a part of the Spurs’ future plans if they’re willing to pay him this summer. The Spurs have only been outscored by 1.2 points per 100 possessions in 481 total minutes with their four full-time starters – Jones, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Poeltl – on the floor together.
Zach Harper, The Athletic — 30 (last week: 30)
Role player to highlight: Josh Richardson | 11.4 points, 3.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds | 44.6/36.4/87.5 shooting
Richardson should be someone teams target at the trade deadline because he’s still a really solid 3- and-D wing. His value and importance were a little overinflated his last year or two in Miami, but he can work on just about any team. He’s still a good defender when he’s in a system that doesn’t leave him completely on an island. His 3-point shooting is about league average and in line with his career numbers, and he’s one of the few true veterans in the Spurs rotation.
Long-term outlook? Expiring deal for $12.1 million.I wouldn’t expect him to be in San Antonio past this season, even if he’s not traded.
Why are they 30th? Worst team in the NBA, and their net rating is only 0.3 points per 100 better than the 2014 Sixers.
Enzo Flojo, Clutch Points — 30 (last week: 30)
The Spurs have won just two games in 2023. They’ve lost 16. How’s that for futility, yes? It’s also possibly a clear sign that they’ll part ways with a couple of players this week. Maybe Jakob Poeltl? Maybe Josh Richardson? Maybe Doug McDermott? Maybe all three? The tank is on in San Antonio.
(There you go, Enzo. After last week’s comments made it sound like you had no clue what was going on, you’re finally getting the drift. The Spurs aren’t in a “sad state”: they’re tanking.)
Prediction: 1-3 — I keep predicting the Spurs will end their losing streak, and the more they lose, the closer they are, right? They begin the Rodeo Road Trip today, and two decent opportunities for a win will present themselves against the Raptors and Pistons. Of course, getting some players back from injury would definitely be helpful.