What to expect from the Spurs’ next 10 games


SOURCE: POUNDINGTHEROCK.COM
DEC 06, 2021

San Antonio has steadily climbed towards respectability after a 3-7 start to the season that saw them lose a handful of tight contests in the clutch to several playoff caliber ball clubs. The loss of Jakob Poeltl undoubtedly factored into their faltering defense, and they have unsurprisingly seen a leap in efficiency on that end since the big man returned to the lineup.

The Silver and Black are now in the middle of a season-best three-game winning streak, dispatching the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, and Portland Trail Blazers with relative ease. Although they have piled on the victories against a series of understaffed teams, their newfound ability to blow out beatable opponents is an encouraging step in the right direction.

Despite a glaring lack of three-point shooting, self-creation, and players who can get to the line, fans are beginning to see what the Spurs can do when healthy and executing on all cylinders. And with head coach Gregg Popovich making some adjustments to the rotation, the good guys could draw even closer to .500 following this agreeable ten-game stretch.

Dec. 4: San Antonio Spurs @ Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have reemerged as title contenders after spending the last few years restocking their talent pool inside the lottery. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons derailed their dynasty, but they now have the best record in the NBA.

Averaging 27.4 points while draining a career-high 5.4 three-pointers per game, Curry is the early runaway favorite to win MVP. And while the other half of the Splash Brothers hasn’t returned to the hardwood, several fresh faces have stepped up across the roster to provide sturdy production.

Draymond Green remains one of the premier two-way playmakers in the league. Jordan Poole has blossomed into a borderline star during his third go-round in Golden State. And Andrew Wiggins has transformed into an efficient secondary option after years of low-calorie stat-padding.

Verdict: Loss

Dec. 6: San Antonio Spurs @ Phoenix Suns

A date with the second-place Suns awaits San Antonio following a tough matchup with the Warriors, but they should have a golden opportunity to walk away victorious. A hamstring injury has forced Devin Booker to the sidelines, and their 18-game winning streak has finally come to an end.

That said, 11-time All-Star Chris Paul and his trusty pick-and-roll partner Deandre Ayton will still be a handful for the Spurs. The pairing commands a ton of attention, which usually leaves sharpshooters Cameron Johnson, Landry Shamet, and Mikal Bridges free to fire away from beyond the arc.

Dejounte Murray recorded an 18-point triple-double against Phoenix as the Spurs fell short of a massive last-minute comeback in the previous meeting between these two Western Conference ball clubs. Hopefully, they come out motivated to beat another shorthanded opponent.

Verdict: Win

Dec. 7: San Antonio Spurs vs. New York Knicks

Considering how much effort the Spurs will likely have to expend trying to take down the Suns, it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see them fall flat in their first SEGABABA in more than a month. Though the Knicks have been a bit of a disappointment this season, they are far from an automatic dub.

New York was home to the fourth-best defense in the league a year ago, which helped make up for a rather pedestrian attack and propelled them into the playoffs for the first time since 2013. But a fair amount of roster turnover has left them mediocre on both ends of the court this season.

All-NBA forward Julius Randle is a versatile offensive force, and RJ Barrett has the pedigree to detonate for 30 points on any given night. Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, and Immanuel Quickley can get hot in a hurry, so the Spurs can’t afford to lose track of them either.

Verdict: Loss

Dec. 9: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

Despite dropping a nail-biter to Denver earlier this season, the Spurs have an excellent chance to avenge their loss. From COVID to untimely injuries, the Nuggets have seen Jamal Murray, Austin Rivers, Nay’Shon Hyland, Bol Bol, PJ Dozier, and Michael Porter Jr. pushed onto the sidelines.

Nikola Jokic is more than capable of willing his team to a victory from time to time, but with most of his usual supporting cast inactive, even this task may be asking too much of him. De facto sidekicks Aaron Gordon and Will Barton have been spread thin, and containing them could go a long way.

Verdict: Win

Dec. 11: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

San Antonio will have the luxury of facing this downtrodden squad a few nights later, which could help them build some much-needed momentum as they approach an incredibly forgiving stretch of their schedule.

There’s not much else to say about this matchup. The Spurs have played phenomenal basketball inside the friendly confines of the AT&T Center, and as long as they’re healthy, they should be considered favorites.

Verdict: Win

Dec. 12: San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Although the Pelicans have been one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, first-year head coach Willie Green has steered his ball club back on track. New Orleans has won four of their last six games, beating playoff teams like the Clippers, Jazz, Mavs, and Wizards in the process.

Brandon Ingram is averaging 26.7 points on .545/.455/.789 shooting splits over his last three games and finally seems to have found his footing after a lengthy stint on the injury report. Meanwhile, offseason trade acquisition Jonas Valunciunias has turned into a knockdown three-point shooter.

San Antonio has the defensive personnel on the perimeter to stifle even the most seasoned facilitators, and the Pelicans don’t have many efficient on-ball creators. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, and Devin Vassell aren’t going to make life any easier for New Orleans.

Verdict: Win

Dec. 15: San Antonio Spurs vs. Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte will enter this contest severely shorthanded due to COVID-19 protocols. Not only will they be without starting center Mason Plumlee and backup forward Jalen McDaniels, but reigning Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball and star combo guard Terry Rozier could also miss this tilt.

One-time All-Star Gordon Hayward and Most Improved Player of the Year frontrunner Miles Bridges are dangerous in their own right. However, both guys could struggle to adjust to a ball-dominant role after spending most of the season relying on LaMelo to get the team into their sets.

Verdict: Win

Dec. 17: San Antonio Spurs @ Utah Jazz

Utah has gotten lost in the title contender conversation ever since Golden State and Phoenix began laying waste to every opponent in their path. Yet the Jazz ended with a league-best 52 wins amid a Coronavirus-shortened campaign a year ago, and they are on pace to win 55 games this season.

The Jazz have depth at virtually every position on the roster. And directed by two-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell and perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert, Utah is one of five teams in the league that sport a top ten Offensive and Defensive Rating.

This is perhaps the least winnable matchup for the Spurs over this ten-game stretch, and playing on the road doesn’t do much to improve their odds. San Antonio has been competitive in almost every outing thus far, though these franchises are on drastically different trajectories.

Verdict: Loss

Dec. 19: San Antonio Spurs @ Sacramento Kings

It looked as though the Kings had begun inching towards organizational competency at the beginning of the season, but they quickly slipped into disarray. Firing head coach Luke Walton was the correct decision, though Sacramento has several flaws that extend into their terrible front office.

De’Aaron Fox has regressed as a shooter, Harrison Barnes has cooled off from his scorching start, and the rest of their roster is a jumbled mess of fringe NBA talent. Tyrese Haliburton has established himself as a keeper but drafting Davion Mitchell made a crowded backcourt more cramped.

The Spurs blew out Sacramento last time out, and fans should trust San Antonio’s stability and direction during this tilt. Sacramento occasionally breaks out an impressive performance, but they’re usually dysfunctional enough to put away as long as their opponents execute their game plan.

Verdict: Win

Dec. 20: San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have cooled off substantially after winning seven contests in a row in early November. While Los Angeles has emerged victorious in just four of their last 11 games, San Antonio has strung together a season-best three-game winning streak behind their stingy defense.

Paul George has continued to put himself on the map as a darkhorse MVP candidate with Kawhi Leonard out of commission. And the seven-time All-Star dominated the Silver and Black en route to 34 points and nine boards when they visited Los Angeles for the first time this season.

Serge Ibaka, Terance Mann, and Marcus Morris Sr. missed the previous encounter between these teams, and they should all be good to go this time. Given this is a challenging back-to-back, there shouldn’t be much griping if the Spurs can’t pull off an upset on the road.