San Antonio Spurs: Brutal upcoming Western Conference matchups

DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The San Antonio Spurs are undefeated through two games but the upcoming slate of Western Conference opponents will help us learn if this team is for real or not.

By four or by forty, a win is a win. And while the San Antonio Spurs first two wins of the season certainly weren’t pretty, the Spurs have to be happy with the end result. The wins count just the same no matter who you beat, but pulling out close games against the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks pales in comparison to the difficulty of San Antonio’s upcoming schedule.

Over the next week, the Spurs will face an MVP contender every night as they take on the who’s who of Western Conference playoff teams. With home contests against the Trail Blazers and Lakers and road games against the Warriors and Clippers, this week will be one of the toughest of the season for San Antonio and will go a long way towards helping us understand where this team stands in the West.

Two of the biggest things that have stood out through the early goings of the season have been the inconsistent play of the Spurs and the interesting rotations/lineups that Gregg Popovich has used.

San Antonio has the ability to lock other teams up on defense but their inconsistency on the offensive end of the floor has been an issue so far. If this trend continues the Spurs will have a hard time keeping themselves in games against teams with much more dangerous scoring options than Marcus Morris.

In the game against the Knicks, the primary culprit of inconsistent offensive play was DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan opened the game seeimingly unable to score the basketball. Mid-range jumpers and looks at the rim, shots DeRozan typically connects on, just weren’t going for him. Unable to find the bottom of the net on his preferred shots DeRozan was left to rely on getting to the charity stripe in order to add to the Spurs total.

But then, when the Spurs needed him most, he came through. Against the Knicks, DeRozan locked in down in the fourth quarter, started making his shots, and helped the Spurs pull off a come from behind win against the Wizards it was more of the same, with DeRozan finishing off the game going 5 for 5 from the field and delivering the final bucket that sealed the victory for San Antonio.

"I just love the moments. I've always been one for thriller-type of movies."@DeMar_DeRozan | #GoSpursGo

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 27, 2019

It’s great that DeRozan is there to help San Antonio in clutch moments. But against teams like the Clippers and Lakers, if DeRozan doesn’t play up to his potential from start to finish there won’t even be clutch moments for him to come through in. The game will have likely been decided long before he has a chance to showcase some late-game heroics.

Another tidbit to watch over the next week of action will be the lineups that Popovich uses. For some reason, we still have yet to see DeMarre Carroll play. He could just need a bit more time to acclimate to the Spurs system, but it’s frustrating to see Carroll sitting on the bench while Marco Belinelli mystifyingly receives solid minutes.

We may see Carroll finally make his Spurs debut this week. He was brought in to add a defensive presence who can go toe to toe with some of the best players in the league. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Carroll get the nod in the starting lineup when the Spurs and Clippers face off.

The Clippers have started games with Kawhi Leonard, Ivica Zubac, and Patrick Patterson sharing the floor with Landry Shamet and Patrick Beverley. Inserting Carroll into the lineup would give San Antonio a defensive presence to help counter the damage that Leonard is capable of inflicting on opposing defenses.

The Spurs are 2-0 right now but could just as easily be 0-2. It’s still early but there have been plenty of highs (see: Dejounte Murray) and plenty of lows. The upcoming week of games will be a real test of how good this Spurs team can be. If San Antonio is able to come out of the week with a 4-2 or 5-1 record then we could be looking at a group that can make some serious noise in the West. On the other hand, if San Antonio walks away from these matchups with quite a few losses then more than a few adjustments will need to be made.

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There aren’t any easy weeks in the West but this one is particularly difficult. It’s a great early test for a Spurs team that has yet to put together the type of dominant end to end performance that they’re capable of.