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 4: The Spurs went an expected 1-2 with three close games against should-be playoff teams but looked like they were having fun along the way.
Coming into the season, this looked like it would be one of the toughest weeks on the schedule, and that ended up being the case for the Spurs. Five games in seven nights, all on the road against the tough Pacific Division spelled trouble from the outset. While the records of those teams are a little jumbled right now — the Warriors and Lakers are badly underachieving while Portland and Sacramento are better than expected — it’s still not an easy trip for any team, and that was only compounded by the Spurs injury woes.
Already down Zach Collins and Blake Wesely, Romeo Langford was added to that list after entering Health and Safety Protocols, and one of the Spurs top three players of Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Jakob Poeltl missed each of the last three games with various “aches and pains” (*cough), leading to some unique line-ups that didn’t mesh well together.
Of the five games, three — vs. the Warriors, Lakers and Clippers — were near wire-to-wire blowouts, and all for pretty much the same reasons: each opponent went nuclear from three on a Spurs team that couldn’t keep up on offense or defense. Defensive rotations were slow, and the opposing offenses had little trouble finding the open man and hitting the shots that resulted from them. The Warriors and Clippers alone combined to hit 44 threes against the Spurs, while the Lakers used a hot first half from three to put away their exhausted opponent early.
The two games that were competitive, against the Kings and Trail Blazers, followed the more traditional arc of a Spurs loss this season: the Spurs got down early, fought back to be competitive in the middle quarters, but mistakes cost them in the fourth quarter, and they couldn’t finish the deal. It was a rough week that brought the Spurs back down to where they are expected to be in the standings, so we’ll see how they respond from here.
Play of the Week
We’re going with Play off the Week because there really weren’t any exciting stats to look at, and of course it has to go to Jeremy Sochan’s posterization of Domontas Sabonis against the Kings for the and-one. For those who missed it, it was so brutal that Mike Brown even challenged the foul call, arguing it should have been an offensive foul, but to no avail. (And of course, a good bench response always makes a play complete.)
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 28 (last week: 25)
OffRtg: 107.9 (26) DefRtg: 117.9 (30) NetRtg: -10.0 (30) Pace: 101.4 (8)
Remember when the Spurs were 5-2? They’ve since lost 10 of their last 11 games, with two five-game losing streaks sandwiching a win in a game in which the Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday. Four of the five losses on the most recent streak have come by at least 18 points, and after 18 games, the Spurs already have twice as many losses by 20 points or more (6) as they had all of last season (3). They’re 6-12 with the point differential of a team that’s 3-15.
The current streak was a stretch of five games in seven nights, and the Spurs (perhaps by choice) had their full starting lineup available for only one of the five games. That was the game – Tuesday in Portland – that wasn’t a blowout, and the Spurs actually led by six with five minutes left. But the Blazers closed the game on a 17-4 run, with Keldon Johnson committing three turnovers on the Spurs’ nine clutch possessions. The starting lineup still has a positive point differential (plus-1.7 points per 100 possessions) for the season (113 total minutes).
Of course, no matter the challenges of the schedule, allowing 124.9 points per 100 possessions over a five-game stretch is pretty rough, especially when the last two games came against two of the three worst offenses in the league (those of the Clippers and Lakers). The Spurs now rank dead last defensively, which just doesn’t sit right. If anything, this team was supposed to rank last offensively (still a possibility).
With their five-games-in-seven-nights road trip in the books, the Spurs have a couple of days off. They’ll play six of their next seven games at home, a stretch that includes two games each against the Pelicans and Lakers.
Zach Harper, The Athletic — 29 (last week: 27)
What are they thankful for? The youth movement is fun for the San Antonio Spurs. The Jeremy Sochan dunk earlier this week was something to get the people going. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassel has been incredible to start the season, bringing some big-time scoring as a young duo and great 3-point shooting. Tre Jones has been spectacular with his 3-point shooting and roughly a 3.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. This Spurs team has started to lose a lot, but the product is entertaining.
Enzo Flojo, Clutch Points — 28 (last week: 21)
Whatever promise and fight we think the Spurs had in October has all but dissipated in November. The Spurs have won just one game all month, and they have lost their last five games. They face a talented Pelicans team and a resurgent Lakers squad (twice more) this week.
Coming up: Wed. 11/23 vs. New Orleans Pelicans (9-7); Fri. 11/25 vs. Los Angeles Lakers (5-10); Sat. 11/26 vs. Los Angeles Lakers (5-10)
Prediction: 1-2 — After the exhausting five-game road trip, the Spurs will just be happy to be home. With Zion Williamson expected to return to the court Monday and presumably play on Wednesday, that might be a tough one for the Spurs to win, but I expect them to steal one back from the Lakers in the back-to-back miniseries.