Even though he’s no longer coaching a team with hall of fame talent, Greg Popovich is still finding ways to be competitive. Sure, it’s not the 22-straight playoff berths, a streak broken in 2020, but somehow, over the last two years, the San Antonio Spurs have still found a way to put themselves into the play-in tournament.
They fell to the Memphis Grizzlies last year in a close 100-96 contest, but there’s no shame in that considering that the Grizzlies have made the leap this year to become the second-best team in the league.
The Spurs’ latest run toward the play-in has been interesting, too, because they’ve been racing against their old rivals the LA Lakers for that tenth seed. Since they own a tiebreaker with the superior conference record, the Lakers would need to finish with a better record to knock San Antonio off.
That’s easier said than done, consider that the Spurs (33-45) now own a two-game advantage over the Lakers (31-47) with four games left to play. It’s still not mathematically impossible, but LeBron James and co. need to win all of their last four games, while also banking on the Spurs going 1-3. If San Antonio go at least 2-2 down the stretch, there’s nothing the Lakers can do to win.
This whole scenario was set up because of San Antonio taking the 113-92 win against the Blazers while the Lakers fell 129-118 to the Nuggets on the same day. That pushed the Spurs’ record to 7-3 over their last 10 games, while the Lakers have lost six in a row and gone 2-8 in their last 10.
Somehow, it feels fitting that Popovich is still competing with his old rivals. With both organizations going through so many changes over the 20-plus years that Coach Pop has been active, he’s the only constant left. It’s hard to say how many years he has left, and considering that he has five championships, three Coach of the Year awards, and became the winningest regular season coach in NBA history this year. There’s little reason for him to keep going other than love for the game, which he clearly still has a lot of.
It’s fitting then, that if this is to be his swansong, he has a chance to put one over his longtime foes.