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Week in Review: Spurs kick off 2024 with an encouraging but winless week

But perhaps more important than the results (for now) is the Spurs are showing some key improvements.

Chicago Bulls v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

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 10: Injuries mar the end of a rough 2023 for the Spurs.

Week 11: 0-3 (5-30, 15th in West) — 98-106 @ Memphis Grizzlies; 121-125 vs. Milwaukee Bucks; 115-117 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

It’s kind of hard to explain how I feel about the Spurs’ first week of basketball in 2024. It certainly felt like some corners were turned, and for the first time this season, it feels like they are actually learning and building from game-to-game. There is a more concerted effort to find Victor Wembanyama on offense, who in turn probably had the best week of his career so far. The Spurs are also coming out of the locker room stronger after halftime, avoiding their infamous “turd” quarters and allowing them to remain in games late, and, although it took injuries to get to this point, Tre Jones is finally the starting point guard, something fans and players alike have welcomed.

On the other hand, they still lost three winnable games. While the loss to Ja Morant and the Grizzlies in Memphis had its positive notes, it was a game where several frustrations boiled to the surface. As if the basketball gods refuse to allow them to have a good game on both ends of the court, it marked the fourth time the Spurs have lost this season when holding a team to under 110 points (while only winning once). But perhaps most notably, Wemby showed his frustrations with his minutes restrictions by checking himself back into the game for 30 seconds in the final two minutes before being subbed back out. He went on to emphasize throughout the rest of the week that while he feels fine, he understands why the restrictions are in place and will keep doing what the doctors order.

Next was a home game against the Bucks, marking the first matchup between Wemby and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and beyond the outcome, it did not disappoint. In what could very well end up being a “Game of the Year” candidate not just for the Bucks and Spurs, but the NBA as a whole, the Greek Freak and the Alien both put on a highlight show throughout. It also marked Jones’ first start of the season, and all that combined with Devin Vassell’s second-highest scoring night of his career made for 48 minutes of pure entertainment. Unfortunately, despite making clutch play after clutch play, back-to-back threes from Giannis (who is not a shooter), a missed three by Jones, and a couple of missed calls by the refs in the last two minutes spoiled what could have been an amazing win.

Finally, the Spurs headed back out to Cleveland, where they continued to show marked improvement in multiple areas but still translate it to a win, although one issue that has plagued them all season reared its ugly head. After getting out to a fast start and building a double digit lead, the Spurs’ depleted bench couldn’t protect it, and it was quickly blown. Still, the Spurs fought back to stay in the game, avoided the turd quarter, and made a furious rally in the final minutes, coming within a shot of sending the game to overtime. Unfortunately, that shot never came, as Wemby (possibly not aware he had a little guy on his back) passed what could have been a turnaround chippy to a slightly more open Jeremy Sochan on the baseline just outside the paint, who, dribbled instead of putting it straight up, and as the close out came sent a slightly errant pass towards Keldon Johnson out of bounds (triggering much debate over who was at fault). It capped off a winleses but exciting week of Spurs basketball, leaving many anxious for those darned minutes restrictions on Wemby to be lifted.

Power Rankings

John Schuhmann, — 29 (last week: 29)

OffRtg: 107.6 (29) DefRtg: 118.8 (25) NetRtg: -11.2 (30) Pace: 102.8 (3)

The Spurs have been very competitive against two good teams (the Bucks and Cavs) over the last four days. But they’ve been unable to close the deal and have another five-game losing streak.

Three takeaways

1. At one point, the Spurs were 3-1 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. They’re now 3-14, having lost 13 straight close games. Victor Wembanyama has shot 9-for-13 on clutch 2-pointers, but the team has shot just 5-for-27 (19%) on clutch 3s and has the league’s second-highest clutch turnover rate (17.9 per 100 possessions).

2. Wembanyama put on a show against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Friday, and the rookie has scored 20 points or more in five straight games for the first time. He has a free throw rate of 43 attempts per 100 shots from the field over that stretch (shooting 29-for-33 from the line), up from 26 per 100 before that.

3. The Spurs had one of the league’s four worst (overall) records last season, but they were 19-9 in games they led by double-digits. This season, they’re an amazing 3-11 after losing an early, 14-point lead in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon.

The Spurs are two games into a stretch of 10 straight against the Eastern Conference, and their first chances to play the Hornets, Pistons or Wizards are this week. They’ll have a rest advantage in Detroit on Wednesday, but will have a home back-to-back later in the week, with Wembanyama having missed the second game of each of their last two back-to-backs.

Brett Siegel, Clutch Points — 28 (last week: 29)

Put Victor Wembanyama in the All-Star Game. NBA fans want to see Wemby there, the entire nation of France wants to see Wemby there, and the NBA social team surely wants to see Wemby there.

Yes, the San Antonio Spurs have been bad and usually a five-win team doesn’t get the recognition of an All-Star talent. Then again, a five-win team has ever had a talent quite like Wembanyama.

The Spurs’ 5-30 record is ugly and a five-game losing streak

Coming up: Wed. 1/10 @ Detroit Pistons; Fri. 1/12 vs. Charlotte Hornets; Sat. 1/13 vs. Chicago Bulls

Prediction: 2-1 — Despite being (hopefully unnecessarily) terrified of Wednesday’s game at Detroit against the one team that has a worse record than them, I’m giving the Spurs the benefit of the doubt that they will ride recent momentum to not just one, but TWO wins against a couple of very beatable teams (the other being the Hornets at home). Then, assuming they won’t have Wemby on a SEGABABA, they’ll lose to the Bulls for a third time this season (courtesy of the In-Season Tournament scheduling glitch).