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Week in Review: Grueling schedule finally catches up with Spurs in letdown week

The Spurs looked gassed in an 0-4 week that capped off a stretch of 15 games in 25 days.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

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 14: The Spurs were playing near .500 ball in recent weeks with their new starting lineup, including a victory over the top seed in the West.

Week 15: 0-4 (10-40, 15th in West) — 113-118 L vs. Washington Wizards; 98-108 L vs. Orlando Magic; 113-114 L vs. New Orleans Pelicans; 101-117 L vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

While it hasn’t been their hardest stretch in terms of strength of schedule, the last four weeks have certainly been one of the most grueling for the Spurs, with 15 games over a 25 day span (or games 60% of the time), beginning in Detroit on January 10 and ending at home vs. Cleveland on February 3. That also included 10 games in the last 14 days, or games a whopping 71% of the time. For reference, the season as a whole spans 172 days, meaning the team plays 47% of the time, well below the recent stretch (hat tip to J.R. Wilco).

So it has been an exhausting few weeks for the Spurs, and it finally caught up with them — especially Victor Wembanyama, who looked like he hit his version of the “rookie wall” the last few games (which is still better than a lot of players), getting gassed early and playing shorter stints as he works his way back into shape after several weeks on minutes restrictions with no back-to-backs. (Or maybe it’s just that dreaded cedar fever San Antonio is known for.) Still, the Spurs didn’t have much of an excuse for losing at home to the Wizards this week, marking the first time this season they’ve lost a game they were favored to win and missing a chance for their first three-game winning streak in over a year.

The three losses after that were more forgivable due to the quality of opponent, and this was when the Spurs started looking like the schedule had finally caught up to them. Against the Magic, the “turd” quarter made an appearance again as the Spurs got down by as much as 25 after leading by 11 in the first, only for them to make a mad rally back to within three with a few minutes left before the stunned Magic recovered just enough to hold them off. Looking to get back on the winning track, they then saved their most impressive showing of the week for their division rival Pelicans, but the beast version of Zion Williamson showed up for this game, and he hit the game-winning shot over impressive defense from both Jeremy Sochan and Wemby before the Spurs failed to find a good look on their final possession.

The week — and stretch of 15 games in 25 days — finally came to a merciful end the next night against a Cavs team that is quietly on a roll. The weary Spurs had no answers for the Cavs’ length and shooters, ending their seven-game homestand with a 2-5 record. Now, they head out on their annual Rodeo Road Trip (which, oddly, Wemby had never heard of) after getting a much needed three days off, with even more rest to look forward two in a couple of weeks thanks to the All-Star break.

Power Rankings

John Schuhmann, — 28 (last week: 27)

After winning two of the first three games in their seven-game homestand, the Spurs have dropped four straight. They now have five fewer wins than anybody else in the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

1. Their game last Monday was a matchup of a team (the Spurs) looking for its first three-game winning streak and a team (the Wizards) looking for its first two-game winning streak of the season. The Spurs led by as many as 14 points and were up nine with six minutes left, but couldn’t close the deal, scoring just six points on their final 12 possessions, with two turnovers (when they were down three) in the final 70 seconds. After blowing two more double-digit leads to the Magic and Pelicans last week, the Spurs are just 6-14 in games they led by at least 10 points.

2. The losing streak has been a rough stretch for the league’s 27th-ranked offense. The Spurs have scored just 105.2 points per 100 possessions over the four games, with players not named Devin Vassell shooting 31-for-109 (28%) from 3-point range.

3. The 3-point miss for the win (when a lob to the 7-foot-4 guy probably would have been a better play) wasn’t the only questionable shot Vassell took down the stretch of the Spurs’ one-point loss to the Pelicans on Friday. But he’s averaged 25 points on better than 50% shooting over the last five games and has seen a jump in effective field goal percentage every season he’s been in the league, with his 2-point percentage this season (55.5%) being a career-high mark by a wide margin.

The annual Rodeo Trip — nine straight road games split by the All-Star break — begins on Wednesday. The Spurs have already played the most interconference games (they’re 3-19 against the East) and the first four games of the trip will be their final four games in Eastern Conference arenas.

Brett Siegel, Clutch Points — 27 (last week: 26)

Victor Wembanyama is heading to All-Star Weekend. Unfortunately for the rookie, this is for the Rising Stars Challenge and not an actual All-Star spot. The Spurs went 0-4 this past week coming oh so close to defeating the Pelicans before Zion Williamson hit a game-winner.

The trending video from San Antonio is still of their mascot catching a bat that got loose in the arena last weekend. How many times are we going to see a bat get into the Spurs’ arena? You would think someone would have solved this problem by now after Manu Ginobili had to get a rabies shot after capturing a bat there in 2009.

Coming up: Wed. 2/7 @ Miami Heat; Thurs. 2/8 @ Orlando Magic; Sat. 2/10 @ Brooklyn Nets

Prediction: 1-2 — The Spurs RRT begins with an immediate change for a win(s) against three middling East teams. The Heat sit in the 8th seed but have been extremely disappointing lately, losing eight of their last ten (not to mention, the Spurs will be well rested for the first time in a month). There’s also chance for revenge against the Magic, followed by a Nets squad that sits just outside the play-in but has improved lately. (I personally believe they could win more than one game this week, but when I show too much confidence, it backfires — see 3-1 for last week.)