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 22: March Madness took over the Spurs as they exploded from three, blew a historical lead, and then returned the next game only to make a historical comeback of their own.
Week 23: 0-4 (19-56, 28th overall) — 84-119 L @ New Orleans Pelicans; 94-130 L @ Milwaukee Bucks; 124-136 L @ Washington Wizards; 93-137 L @ Boston Celtics
What a rollercoaster ride these Spurs are. One week it’s March Madness with insane wins and nail-biting losses, the next the Spurs can barely hold it together for more than a half for four straight games, losing by a combined 127 points, or an average of 31.75 points per game — and that’s despite losing one of those games by “only” 12 points. Gregg Popovich continues to “manage” players from game to game, never putting out consistent lineups that have any level of cohesiveness between players, and third stringers are oftentimes left facing starters on championship-caliber teams.
Three of the four games went pretty much the same way, with the games being competitive for most of the first half but rapidly turning just into massive blowouts around halftime, largely thanks to the opponent getting red hot from three and never slowing down as the helpless Spurs could only watch. Even the one game that remained competitive through the third quarter (against the Wizards) still featured a decisive fourth quarter from the opponent that easily determined the outcome.
Because of the repetitive nature of this week’s slate, I thought instead of just recapping every game, I would present a gallery of the flow from each game. The similarity is somewhat uncanny, and if this trend doesn’t turn, this season can’t come to a more merciful end soon enough. Seven more games...
The Hornets have pulled away from the pack, so that leaves the Spurs, Rockets and Pistons pretty much locked in the bottom three. There’s a two-game difference between the three, so now it’s just coming down to what order they finish in, and even that only matters if any fall outside of the top four.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 29 (last week: 28)
OffRtg: 109.0 (29) DefRtg: 119.5 (30) NetRtg: -10.4 (30) Pace: 101.8 (4)
The good news is that the last time the Spurs ranked last defensively, they got Tim Duncan in the ensuing Draft and ranked in the top three on that end of the floor in each of the next 11 seasons. That 1996-97 team was actually a little worse defensively (allowing 5.8 more points per 100 possessions than the league average) than this one (+5.3), but these Spurs still have a couple of more weeks to work on that differential. This roster also doesn’t have an injured David Robinson to pair with whomever the Spurs pick in June.
Spurs opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 57.6%, which would be the highest opponent mark in NBA history by a pretty healthy margin. The Spurs rank lower in opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (55.9%, 30th) than they do on shots in the paint (59.3%, 21st), but paint defense has still been a big problem. They’ve allowed their opponents to take 53% of their shots (the league’s highest opponent rate) in the paint, and the 56.5 points in the paint per game and 55.0 points in the paint per 100 possessions would be the highest opponents marks in the 27 seasons for which points in the paint have been tracked.
If the Spurs were competitive right now, they’d have a handful of spoiler opportunities in these last two weeks of the season. But they’ve lost their last four games by an average of 31.8 points and now have an NBA-record eight losses by 35 points or more. (The previous record was six.) Another one or two of those and they could end up as the first team since the 2011-12, 7-59 Bobcats to rank last on both ends of the floor.
Zach Harper, The Athletic — 29 (last week: 28)
One burning question: Can the Spurs stomach if they don’t end up with a top-three pick?
This is no offense to Amen Thompson or Cam Whitmore or Ausar Thompson, but can the Spurs rest easy with this season if they don’t end up with a top-three pick? Ending up with Wembanyama is the reason they have the net rating and the record they own. Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller would be fine consolation prizes after that, but dropping down to fourth or worse in the draft makes all this tanking/development tough to swallow. Not that the next players can’t end up being treasures in the development process, but the Spurs really need a franchise guy they currently lack.
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports — 30 (last week: 27)
After a couple of anomalous wins last week, the Spurs got back on track with losses to the Pelicans, Bucks, Wizards and Celtics. The available roster varies greatly from night to night, but Sandro Mamukelashvili is making an impact lately, putting up 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this week on 51% shooting.
Coming up: Wed. 3/29 vs. Utah Jazz; Fri. 3/31 @ Golden State Warriors; Sun. 4/2 @ Sacramento Kings
Prediction: 1-2 — Last week certainly didn’t generate much hope for a win anytime soon, but if the Spurs do get one this week, it will be at home against a Jazz team that handed them their trend-busting win to begin the month after 16 straight losses. The other two games will be back on the road, and tough ones at that. The Warriors have been a Jekyll and Hyde team this season, but the Jekyll version has been at home, where they’ve looked like their usual, contending selves. The Kings aren’t as strong at home as their overall record would suggest, but they’re still in that upper tier of the West and shouldn’t have much trouble with the Spurs (which is weird to type after decades of the two teams being on opposite ends of the spectrum).