If recent projections for the NBA Play-In Tournament hold true, the San Antonio Spurs should be participating for the second straight year this April.
With Saturday's huge win over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Spurs sit just one game behind the Lakers for the 10th seed and 1.5 games behind New Orleans for 9th. The team that finishes 11th out of those three will be left on the outside looking in.
On Sunday, LeBron James and company blew a 23-point lead at home to the Pelicans. According to projections from Basketball Reference, that effectively established them as the most likely candidate to miss the Play-In Tournament altogether:
Strength of schedule hurts the Lakers' chances
As of Monday morning, the Lakers have the second-toughest strength of schedule remaining in the league. Meanwhile, the Spurs have the 13th-toughest and the Pelicans have the 23rd-toughest. Assuming San Antonio is able to sneak in, the other low seed could be determined in Friday's rematch between the Lakers and Pelicans.
Considering the expectations of both the Lakers and Spurs heading into the season, it's pretty wild to see that San Antonio has a decent chance of ending up with a better record. After all, King James himself had high hopes and all-but-guaranteed positive results before the season.
This week, the Spurs visit the last-place Houston Rockets Monday before hosting the Memphis Grizzlies without Ja Morant on Wednesday. They wrap up the week with home games against the free-falling Portland Trail Blazers Friday and Sunday.
If San Antonio can win three of four this week, the pressure will mount on the Lakers even further, and their margin for error is starting to get razor thin. The three-man race is going to be must-watch television over these last two weeks.