‘Consistent’ is perhaps the best word to describe the San Antonio Spurs over the last two decades. Their five NBA championships over that span of time could only be matched (or eclipsed) by the Los Angeles Lakers (six NBA championships), Real Madrid (13 UEFA Champions League titles) and Tom Brady (seven Super Bowl titles).
The Spurs making the postseason has been so commonplace that it was more surprising when they missed out on the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Since entering the NBA in 1976, San Antonio has only missed the playoffs five times and never in consecutive years.
This season may be the first time the Spurs go through their own version of a “postseason drought” as the team is clinging to the final spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament. It may also well be Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s toughest season considering the circumstances surrounding his squad.
Even as the NBA landscape has changed, San Antonio remains to be one of the most deliberate and careful teams in the league. Their 11 turnovers this season is the best in the NBA and they are perhaps the most 3-point averse team in the league as their 28.8 3-point attempts per game is the lowest mark in the league. The Spurs thrive in sharing the ball, but it has not been as effective as in past seasons as their assists per game are smack in the middle of the NBA at 24.6 assists per game, while their offense is among the bottom half of the league.
Popovich has normally coached older teams, but now his current roster has an average age of 25.41, which is almost a year and a half older than the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have the youngest roster in terms of average age at 24 years old. The ages of the San Antonio players, however, belie their experience as on average, Spurs players have five seasons under their belt, which is near the Lakers’ league-high mark of 7.36.
Currently, San Antonio is 31-33 on the year and are on a four-game losing streak, with two losses coming against the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers coming in overtime. The defeat against the Celtics was particularly tough as they were up by as many as 32 points only to be on the wrong end of a 60-point outburst from Jayson Tatum.
Based on the games they have left, the Spurs also have the toughest schedule in the NBA and a deeper look into their last seven opponents provides context as to what San Antonio has to go through over the next two weeks.
|Opponent||Date of Next Matchup||Current Seed in Conference||20-21 Season Series||Result of the Last Matchup|
|Utah Jazz||May 05||1st (West)||0-2||Loss, 110-99|
|Sacramento Kings||May 07||12th (West)||1-1||Win, 120-106|
|Portland Trail Blazers||May 08||7th (West)||1-1||Loss, 107-106|
|Milwaukee Bucks||May 10||3rd (East)||0-1||Loss, 120-113|
|Brooklyn Nets||May 12||2nd (East)||0-1||Loss (OT), 124-113|
|New York Knicks||May 13||4th (East)||1-0||Win, 119-93|
|Phoenix Suns*||May 15 and 16||2nd (West)||1-0||Win, 111-85|
*The Spurs will play the Suns twice to close out the regular season.
The Spurs will play four games in five nights to close out the regular season, and while they have a 2-1 record against those three teams, they are facing the Brooklyn Nets and the Phoenix Suns, both of whom have been among the league’s best. Meanwhile, the New York Knicks aren’t pushovers this year so going through them won’t be a cakewalk.
The rest of the schedule is daunting as well as Portland Trail Blazers are trying to avoid the play-in tournament, while the Utah Jazz and the Milwaukee Bucks are looking to improve their seedings and develop the rhythm needed for a prolonged playoff run.
San Antonio is 1.5 games and a game behind the eighth-seed Golden State Warriors and the ninth-seed Memphis Grizzlies, respectively, but their slate of opponents over the next few days may make overtaking them difficult. They do, however, hold a 2.5-game lead over the New Orleans Pelicans (who have the sixth toughest schedule) and also have an extra game in hand they can use to pad their lead.
The San Antonio Spurs have arguably been one of the model organizations in all of professional sports thanks to their championship success and the way Popovich, the rest of the coaches, and team management have run the organization. The current circumstances the Spurs are facing, while stormy to say the least, can serve as another opportunity for them to stamp their class as a top-tier organization, especially if they qualify for the postseason.