For the last two decades, the San Antonio Spurs have been a virtual playoff lock. In a record-breaking season for head coach Gregg Popovich, will the Spurs manage to sneak into the postseason via the play-in tournament?
San Antonio Spurs – Playoff Contenders or Pretenders?
The Spurs currently sit in the 12th spot in the Western Conference standings. With a 25-41 record, San Antonio finds themselves 27 games out of first place. However, hope remains in the form of the play-in tournament. The Spurs are currently only one game behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the tenth and final spot in the tournament.
The Spurs have been led by Dejounte Murray this season. The sixth-year point guard is having a career year, averaging 20.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 9.4 assists per game to date. This young core has a lot of promise, but will they have enough firepower to eclipse the Pelicans and Portland Trailblazers for the final spot in the West?
There for the Taking
San Antonio not only benefits from a reasonable end-of-year schedule, but they also have multiple chances to directly gain ground in the standings. Five of their final 15 games come against the Blazers or Pelicans. The Spurs can greatly help their playoff chances by taking care of business in these matchups. On top of this, San Antonio has favorable matchups with the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets remaining on the schedule.
Popovich became the NBA’s all-time winningest head coach last night in a comeback victory over the Utah Jazz. This win has to be a huge relief for the team. Make no mistake, Popovich was not worried about this achievement, at least not to the point that he would allow it to impact his coaching strategy or interactions with his team. That being said, this is a young team and the entire basketball world is aware of this epic accomplishment that was on the horizon. This was likely adding pressure to this team as they fight to win this record for their coach.
With the Pacers, Thunder, and Pelicans on the calendar for next week, it is a safe bet that the Spurs will be able to turn this monumental accomplishment into some momentum in the short term.
On the Court
As previously stated, this team goes as Murray goes. Outside of the star point guard, the Spurs rely heavily on forwards Keldon Johnson and Josh Richardson to provide scoring from the wing. In the frontcourt, San Antonio is anchored by Austrian big-man and namesake of everyone’s favorite sports puzzle game, Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is averaging nearly a double-double for the season with 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. He also leads the Spurs with 1.7 blocks per game this year. Lonnie Walker IV is the key contributor off the bench for the Spurs. The fourth-year guard is averaging a career-high 12 points per game and recently led San Antonio in scoring in back-to-back games.
While the Spurs’ schedule is easier than most at this point in the season, they still have a number of challenges ahead of them. San Antonio has games against the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, and two games each against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors. These contests should be a great gauge for the Spurs’ chances at hanging with a playoff team for a first-round matchup.
If the Spurs fail to make the play-in, they’ll only have themselves to blame. Five shots at the two teams ahead of you in the standings is about as much as a team in their situation can ask for. Additionally, the Pelicans and the Blazers are struggling mightily right now. Each team has also lost its last four and six games respectively.
However, when I look at a Pelicans team now led by Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum with the possibility of Zion Williamson returning, it’s hard to see them outside of the top ten in the west at season’s end.
Therefore, the Spurs will sadly miss the playoffs for what could be Popovich’s final season. Want to know if your favorite team is a contender or pretender? LWOS has the verdict for all teams in this series. We are also your home for the best takes on the NCAA tournament.
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