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 23: The Spurs had an 0-4 against a tough schedule, all featuring second half blowouts.
Recency bias is a powerful thing. Thanks to the Spurs’ thrilling OT victory in Sacramento last night, it feels like it was a great week. Despite missing their top two scorers in Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell plus Jeremy Sochan, the Spurs walked into the Golden 1 Center to face a Kings team fresh of securing its first playoff berth since 2006 and a win away from its first division title since 2003, giving them still plenty to play for. The Spurs would have been forgiven for extending their losing streak to seven, but instead Julian Champagnie and Doug McDermott outscored De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis on their own, Tre Jones posted a triple-double, and the Spurs got their first OT victory of the season in an offensive thriller.
But, there were still two games before that, and they weren’t so great (but not as bad as the week before). As the Spurs continue to manage injuries and put out random lineups from game to game, it’s getting harder than ever for them to put out a cohesive performance. In their final home game in San Antonio of the season (the last two are in Austin), they faced off against an equally shorthanded Utah Jazz team that has given up on its own postseason aspirations. It was a tight game throughout, but the Jazz were able to build a big enough lead in the fourth quarter to cushion them from one final comeback attempt by the Spurs.
Next was a visit to the Golden State Warriors, and while the defending champions have been a relative disappointment this season, they still play like a championship caliber team at home. Thanks to a brief return from Johnson, the Spurs managed to hang with the defending champions for three quarters and even led by a point heading before the Warriors went all Splash Bros in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Spurs 43-27 to hand them their sixth straight loss.
The Spurs are now a lock for a bottom three spot, but they’re also either one win or a Pistons loss away from losing out on the 30th spot. That doesn’t matter at all as long as they pick in the top four, but being 28th vs. 30th does lower the floor of where they could potentially pick as far back as 7th. Regardless, the odds of that happening are still very low.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 29 (last week: 29)
OffRtg: 109.3 (29) DefRtg: 119.6 (30) NetRtg: -10.3 (30) Pace: 101.9 (3)
With the Hornets having a couple of ugly losses over the weekend, the Spurs are probably safe in regard to not finishing last on both ends of the floor, something that’s been done just twice in the last 25 years (2011-12 Bobcats and 2017-18 Suns). But they still need to win one more game to avoid a tie for the worst record in franchise history, and need to be no worse than a minus-14 over their last four games to avoid being the 19th team in NBA history to be outscored by at least 10 points per game.
While the other two teams — Detroit (3) and Houston (2) — that will have 14% Lottery odds have multiple top-five picks from the last few drafts, the Spurs have none. They also parted ways with Josh Primo, the 11th pick from 2021, just 54 games into his NBA career. So you could make the argument that they’re the team most in need of landing at No. 1 for the first time since the last time they were this bad (1996-97). This team doesn’t have a David Robinson on its roster, but there are some building blocks in place.
The most intriguing of those is Jeremy Sochan, the No. 9 pick from the 2022 draft. Sochan has started all but three of the games he’s played in but has been in and out (mostly out) of the lineup for the last couple of months and ranks just 12th among rookies in total minutes played. He had one terrific stretch, averaging 19.8 points and 8.3 rebounds over his first six games after the All-Star break, with the Spurs outscoring their opponents by 5.0 points per 100 possessions in his 185 minutes over that run. With the Spurs not focused on winning games, they have allowed the rookie forward to rank fourth on the team in total time of possession, and he’s made some nice plays along the way.
As interesting a player as Sochan is, it could be a long road back to relevance if the Spurs don’t get the No. 1 or No. 2 pick. And no matter what, the first question this summer will be about the future of Hall of Famer Gregg Popovich.
Zach Harper, The Athletic — N/A (last week: 28)
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports — 27 (last week: 30)
It looked like another winless week for the Spurs, and then BOOM! They dropped 142 points in a road win over the Kings on Sunday, without Keldon Johnson or Devin Vassell in the lineup. Doug McDermott led the team with a 30-piece, while Julian Champagnie added 26 and Dominick Barlow had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds (I promise these are real NBA players).
Prediction: 2-2 — This might be a stretch, but why not? It’d the end of the season, and the Spurs have secured a bottom three seed but are extremely unlikely to get back down to 30th at this point, so they really have nothing to lose by winning another game or two. I believe the Spurs put out as complete a squad as possible and try to get at least one win for the Austin crowd, and the Portland game might be the one to do it since they have also entered tank mode and shut down Damian Lillard for the season.
Then, odd as it may seem, it’s quite possible the Mavs are out of the play-in hunt by the season finale — they’re two games back from the Thunder in the 10th slot by virtue of OKC owning the tie-breaker with just three games left — and if so, they probably will have mailed it in as well. These Spurs want to go out on a high note, so that’s another potential upset to end the season.