The Spurs are in real danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1996-97 NBA season.
San Antonio’s sustained run of success is on shaky ground after a 1-7 “Rodeo Road Trip,” leaving the Spurs clinging to the eighth seed in the West. To make matters worse, one of those seven losses came against the Kings, who sit in the ninth spot — one game behind the Spurs.
Trading away two-way star Kawhi Leonard in the offseason and losing point guard Dejounte Murray to injury at the beginning of the year set this season in motion.
The Spurs have undoubtedly felt those losses on the defensive end of the court.
|Spurs’ Defensive Splits (via NBA.com)||Opponent’s Points Per Game||Ranking||Defensive Rating||Ranking|
While Leonard and Murray both set the tone for the Spurs’ dominant defense during the past two seasons, San Antonio currently lacks a defender who can compare to the absent players.
If it wasn’t already obvious enough, the Spurs are “still reeling” from the loss of Murray, per Stadium NBA Insider Shams Charania, with the team viewing Murray’s injury as a “dent to the franchise’s core” and “a major blow to the organization.”
Murray wasn’t a superstar, but he was developing into a solid two-way anchor for the team moving forward. His absence means that players, like DeMar DeRozan, have to step up if San Antonio wants to keep the playoff streak alive.
But the former Raptor’s production has declined after a solid start to the season for the Spurs.
|DeMar DeRozan’s Season Splits||Points Per Game||FG%||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Basketball-Reference Game Score|
|2018 (38 games)||22.9||47.4||112||111||17.7|
|2019 through Feb. 27 (19 games)||19.2||45.0||100||114||13.5|
Although the Spurs have struggled in DeRozan’s first year with the franchise, one silver lining is that the team has improved in 3-point efficiency this season, returning to the top spot despite shooting the least attempts per game from that distance.
But even with San Antonio’s reemergence as an efficient three-point shooting team, they won’t get any favors with their schedule in March and April.
According to Tankathon.com, they have the 18th toughest remaining schedule in the league, while the Kings have the 28th hardest schedule remaining.
San Antonio does get 12 games at home versus eight on the road, helping its cause — the Spurs are 22-7 at home and 11-22 away from the AT&T Center this season.
The best-case scenario for San Antonio involves the Lakers and Timberwolves rising past the Kings and Clippers in the standings because the Spurs have the head-to-head tiebreaker on both those teams, winning the regular-season series against the Lakers 3-1 and sweeping the Timberwolves across three games.
Against the Clippers, the Spurs have gone 2-2, and they’ve yet to register a win against the Kings in two games with just one contest remaining — meaning San Antonio has already lost the tiebreaker to Sacramento in a head-to-head scenario.
Unfortunately, that’s the team right behind the Spurs in the standings.
That’s why it’s very possible that San Antonio’s entire season might come down to its matchup with the Kings on March 31. Both teams only play five games after that contest, meaning that showdown could end one of the most successful runs in basketball history.