As the season winds down and playoffs approach there is one scenario that would be perfect for the San Antonio Spurs.
After a tough Rodeo Road Trip, the San Antonio Spurs are finally playing in front of a friendly crowd again. San Antonio’s homecourt advantage is one of the strongest in the league. This is a blessing for a Spurs squad that will need to fight tooth and nail to hold on to their spot in the playoffs.Since the beginning of the season, it was clear that the Western Conference was going to be a bloodbath. With so many talented teams fighting for limited playoff spots, it always is. The battle for the 8th seed in the playoffs came down to the final game of the season last year.
We may not achieve that level of excitement, but we’re close.
Out of all of the possible endings, there is only one that combines the perfect amount of entertainment and possibility. That is the scenario in which San Antonio holds on to the 7th seed and matches up with the Denver Nuggets in the first round while the Sacramento Kings make their first playoff appearance since 2006 and face off against the Golden State Warriors.
At this point, there are roughly four teams fighting for three playoff spots. The Utah Jazz currently hold the 6th seed in the West. They are followed by the Spurs, Clippers, and Kings. The likelihood of the Jazz falling out is slim, so what we really have is three teams fighting for two spots.
The Clippers have been one of the surprise stories of the season. While the Lakers have dominated headlines the Clippers have been the vastly superior team in Los Angeles. Without a superstar, they have maintained their playoff position. Even after trading away their best player to Philadelphia they have continued to prove that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Los Angeles has been one of the most well-rounded teams the league has to offer. From top to bottom they’re solid. Led by Danilo Gallinari and JaMychal Green, Los Angeles is second in three-point percentage.
Most Improved Player candidate Montrezl Harrell has helped them corral enough rebounds to be the 7th best rebounding team. Rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet haven’t looked like your typical rookies. SGA has received more minutes following Avery Bradley’s departure and has handled it very well. Shamet clearly took plenty of notes in his time in Philadelphia, he’s shooting a J.J. Redick-like 46 percent from downtown since arriving in Los Angeles.
As good as the Clippers are, they still don’t have a shot at the title. If they are planning for the future, they shouldn’t even be trying to make the playoffs. If the Clippers make it to the post-season, they forfeit their first round pick in this year’s draft to the Boston Celtics.
They also have the cap space to sign two max-contract players this summer. They’re clearly going to shake things up in the off-season, so why shoot for the playoffs?
If the Clippers really want to set themselves up for future success, they should ease off the gas down the stretch, keep their first round pick, and build a contender this summer.
Next: Settling on an Eighth Seed
Settling on an Eighth Seed
The Clippers falling out of the playoffs would also open up space for one of the NBA’s feel-good stories of the season: the upstart Sacramento Kings.
With the 4th easiest remaining schedule according to Tankathon, the Kings are more than capable of putting together an end of season push for the playoffs. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield leading a team of youngsters to the 8th seed to face off against the juggernaut Warriors would be one of the most exciting first-round matchups.
The Kings almost certainly will not win that series – heck, they might not win a game – but it sure would be fun to see them try.
This series would feature two teams in the top-10 in both pace and three-point percentage. The games would be played at breakneck speed and the scores would be astronomical. There are exciting matchups across the board. Fox and Steph Curry, Hield and Klay Thompson, Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles squaring off against Kevin Durant and Draymond Green; all would be exciting to watch.
The series would be over before it began. There is a near zero percent chance that the Kings would knock off the Warriors. But that’s not the point. If Sacramento makes the playoffs, they’re essentially playing with house money. Who doesn’t want to see an up-and-coming team playing pressure-free against the defending champions?
Now back to the Spurs, San Antonio needs to maintain their hold on the 7th seed if they want a chance to advance in the playoffs. It really is that cut and dry.
Next: Securing the Seventh Seed
Securing the Seventh Seed
The Denver Nuggets currently occupy the 2nd seed in the Western Conference. Denver has surprised quite a few people with how dominant they have been this season. They, along with the Golden State Warriors, have entrenched themselves as the ruling class of the West, but San Antonio has held their own against Denver this year. The Spurs currently lead the season series at 2-1 and the final matchup between the two teams will come on April 3rd in Denver.
The first three matchups between the two squads have all been nail biters. San Antonio has won both games at home and dropped one in Denver. They’ll need to steal one on the road in the playoffs if they want to advance. They’re very capable of doing that.
The Spurs and Nuggets matchup well. Both have All-Star forwards as the main engine of their offense and both of these big men are complemented by backcourts full of slashers and shooters.
Nikola Jokic has been incredible all season long, he’s quietly put together an MVP caliber season. Denver’s backcourt of Jamal Murray, Torrey Craig, Gary Harris, Monte Morris, and Isaiah Thomas is one of the deepest and most skilled in the league.
You can’t neutralize a player of Jokic’s caliber, but LaMarcus Aldridge has done a solid job of minimizing his impact on the game in the three matchups between the two teams. With Jokic, you really have to pick your poison. He’s going to have a sizeable impact on the game but the Spurs can dictate how he impacts the matchup. If San Antonio wanted to upset the Nuggets, they would follow the same gameplan they did in San Antonio for the first matchup between the two teams back in late December.
In that game, the Spurs took away Jokic’s ability to score the basketball and turned him into a pure passer. He did rack up 10 assists, but that’s something you can live with. The important part is that he was held to just four points. Forcing Denver’s young backcourt to carry the scoring load is key.
With Derrick White leading the defensive effort, San Antonio should be able to rattle the young Denver guards. Gregg Popovich has been to the playoffs more times than most coaches ever do, he will certainly cook something up to surprise the Nuggets backcourt.
More from Air Alamo
- Spurs show remarkable poise against Bulls, unlike many fans
- Devin Vassell is the latest in the Spurs’ collection of silent assassins
- San Antonio Spurs: 5 Players to avoid in any LaMarcus Aldridge deal
- Is Gregg Popovich hiding Luka Samanic as a secret weapon?
- San Antonio Spurs News: More DeRozan trade talk from Chris Haynes
Not only would San Antonio have a strong chance of winning this matchup, but it would also produce some seriously beautiful basketball. San Antonio has always been the banner carrier for beautiful ball movement but this Denver team isn’t too far behind.
Led by their 7-foot point-center, the Nuggets are constantly whipping the ball around like they’re the 2014 Spurs. A Denver – San Antonio series would feature great ball movement on both sides. No matter the outcome, it would still be a wildly entertaining series.
The Clippers sliding out of the playoffs, Sacramento moving up to the 8th seed, and San Antonio holding on to 7th. That’s the scenario every Spurs fan should be rooting for.
The Kings taking on the Warriors and the Spurs facing off against the Nuggets would provide plenty of entertainment and the Spurs have a very real chance of advancing past the inexperienced Nuggets. Just like last year, this years playoff race in the Western Conference could come down to the very last few games.
Every game matters and it’s going to be an exciting end to the season for the Spurs as they chase yet another playoff appearance.