There’s been chatter that the San Antonio Spurs may be one of the teams to participate in a play-in tournament which could save their playoff streak.
Rumors are swirling and NBA fans are at the end of their seats, patiently awaiting the next steps from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in his pursuit of a return to play. The basketball world at large is grasping for something to keep them occupied during this barren sports landscape, but San Antonio Spurs fans have something else on their mind.
If the league does return with teams that are currently outside the playoff picture, there’s a good chance that the Spurs could make a run at the playoffs. Granted, it’s going to take a big turnaround from the way they had been playing before the hiatus, but this has provided a blank slate. For a team that struggled all season with limiting their opponent’s scoring and matching their energy, returning now under these circumstances actually benefits them in the long run.
Players are going to be rusty and there’s a good shot that shooting percentages will fall. Certain players are less inclined to give 100 percent effort and their bodies may not be prepared for the task that lays ahead. According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, the NBA is considering a play-in tournament to give the Spurs, along with the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans a chance at reaching that final spot.
San Antonio was 3-4 against those teams in the regular season, which is nothing to write home about and certainly doesn’t expose any clear advantage. However, the run-and-gun playstyle that two of these three groups plays is in jeopardy since they’ll need to reacclimate to NBA pace and physicality. A slow build-up to return favors a team that plays primarily in the paint and through the mid-range.
The Spurs split their season series with Sacramento and won their only game against New Orleans, though they were slated to play three more times between early-March and the end of the season. Against all odds, San Antonio could swoop in and claim that final roster spot with their balance of youth and veteran leadership.
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Maybe the likes of De’Aaron Fox, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson pose a threat in this scenario, but none of them have the playoff experience that the Spurs’ leading scorers do. The only marquee players to reach a Conference Finals from this group of teams are DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Portland, who won two of three games against the Spurs this year, is the biggest threat to San Antonio’s chance of winning a play-in tournament. Lillard is cold-blooded, but starting point guard Dejounte Murray is going to get into his airspace and force Lillard to get his teammates involved.
Sacramento has been a difficult matchup for the Spurs in recent years due to their blistering speed and athleticism, which has been refined with three-point shooting and spacing to match. It’s a tough combination for the Spurs, in particular, considering they’re not the fastest or most athletic team, but when the bright lights turn on and the Kings need to play for their season, I don’t trust that they’ll be able to come up clutch. After all, they’re the Sacramento Kings.
While New Orleans is probably better than it’s been in years, the Spurs proved in their first matchup that they can outwit the Pelicans and earn their keep.
It’s going to be an uphill battle, but the Spurs could prevail in a play-in tournament; especially with the stakes as high as they are.