Opponents’ strength of schedules aren’t encouraging for the Spurs
By Josh Paredes
When the NBA released the second half of the San Antonio Spurs‘ schedule, I got tired just reading it. Beginning March 10th, they’ll have a maximum of one day off until their season officially ends on May 16th. Starting with the one on March 1st and 2nd, they’ll also have a whopping 12 back-to-backs to deal with as they look to return to the playoffs.
When you look at the Spurs’ strength of schedule remaining, the news doesn’t get much better. On top of having the most games left to play with 44, they also have the fourth-toughest remaining schedule in the NBA as of Friday afternoon. Per Tankathon.com, San Antonio’s remaining opponents have a combined 51.4 percent winning percentage.
Heading into Saturday’s home game against the Pelicans, the Spurs are sixth in the Western Conference with a 16-12 record. I’d be more than fine being proven wrong, but I can’t realistically see them getting a top-four seed, so I’ll be focusing on some of the teams I think will be fighting with the Spurs for a lower-end playoff seed.
Here’s what the remaining schedule looks like for some rivals nearest to the Spurs in the standings.
Next: Memphis, Denver, Golden State
The “We have it just as bad” Club
Memphis Grizzlies (14-14, 9th in West) -After having their own COVID-19 outbreak as the Spurs did, the Grizzlies also have to play a jam-packed second half of the season by knocking out 44 games. Out of the top 10 teams in the West, they have the fifth-toughest schedule left with a strength of schedule of 50.2 percent (11th toughest overall).
Memphis has to deal with the first-place Utah Jazz three times going forward, as well as two games against the LA Clippers.
The “Good, not great” Club
Denver Nuggets (17-15, 8th in West) – When it comes to teams underperforming this season, the Denver Nuggets are right up there with the Boston Celtics. While they’ll still certainly make the playoffs, they’re following up a surprise Western Conference Finals appearance by playing just above .500 basketball.
When it comes to their remaining strength of schedule, their 49.8 percent is in the middle of the pack in the NBA at 15th, with easier schedules than Phoenix, Portland, Memphis, and, of course, the Spurs. Still, they have five straight road games coming up and are 8-8 on the road so far.
Golden State Warriors (18-15, 7th in West) – Even though they’re without Klay Thompson once again, you can never count out a healthy Steph Curry. The Warriors have already gotten the better of the Spurs twice in three games this season and will certainly be in the 5-8 range of the West by the season’s end.
Golden State has the same strength of schedule as the Grizzlies at 50.2 percent, but their games will be more spread out since they only have 39 games left to play. The Warriors have to travel for games against the Lakers, Trail Blazers, and Phoenix Suns before the All-Star break, so they could drop a spot or two in the next couple of weeks. But an East-heavy late March and early April could give them the boost they’ll need to be in the mix in May.
Next: Portland & Dallas
The “Good, not great” Club, continued
Portland Trail Blazers (18-13, 5th in West)
With a strength of schedule of 50.7 percent, the Portland Trail Blazers have the toughest road ahead of anyone not named the Spurs or Lakers in the top 10 of the West. The return after the All-Star break should go well for them, as they’ll be playing six games out of seven against teams currently under .500.
The Spurs already had one convincing victory over Damian Lillard and company in January, but the teams will have two more meetings, with one being in the final stretch of the season. Like San Antonio, Portland’s final stretch isn’t friendly, with their last six games being against Western Conference opponents currently in the top eight.
The “Destined to climb the standings” Club
Dallas Mavericks (15-16, 10th in West)
Maybe there’s a reason the Dallas Mavericks haven’t played up to their expected standards. Dallas has had one of the toughest NBA schedules in the league so far. As a result, their remaining strength of schedule is easier than everyone but the Nets and Jazz at 48.4 percent.
While they still have to meet the Clippers and Lakers twice each, the Mavericks have an absolute cakewalk to end the season. In May, only one of their 11 games is against a team playing winning basketball. Expect Dallas to be a team that shoots up the standings when it counts the most.