With the NBA season going in for the descent, there is enough basketball left to play for the San Antonio Spurs to make a run at the play-in tournament.
A recent addition to the season, the tournament features the seventh and eighth seed battling it out in a single game, and the winner of that game is given the seventh playoff spot. The winner of the nine and ten seed matchup then plays the loser of the seven/eight-game, and the winner of that game is granted the eighth seed.
The Spurs are hovering near the end of the play-in range and likely will stay there for the rest of the season.
Of the four teams that make the tournament for each conference, the Western Conference has seven teams I can see making it. The Timberwolves and Clippers look comfortably in the tournament while the Lakers, Pelicans, Trail Blazers, and Kings are fighting the Spurs for the lower seeds. The Spurs would most likely make it as one of the lower seeds and would have to get favorable matchups in order to win both games and create a playoff berth.
The Spurs' First Play-in Game
First, the Spurs would have to go up against the ninth or tenth seed, which would probably be the Lakers or Blazers. The Spurs have only played Portland once this season, and they blew the Blazers out 114-83 on the road. Bryn Forbes and CJ McCollum were the leading scorers, and both of them are on new teams now. Damian Lillard did not play, and he’s made a name for himself as a playoff legend, but I do think Dejounte Murray could shut him down, and he’s only one man.
The Spurs have split the two games they’ve played against the Lakers. LeBron James is aging, but he is still capable of putting a team on his back. In the single-game format of the play-in tournament, one game is all James needs. Anthony Davis is expected to miss the next four weeks, but he could make it back in time to play the Spurs. In the first hypothetical matchup, fans should hope the Lakers pull through and are seeded higher so San Antonio can have a fairly easy matchup against Portland.
The Spurs' Second Play-in Game
The second game, as of the standings now, could be against the Timberwolves, Lakers, or Clippers. History proves otherwise, but I am scared of this year’s Wolves. Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russel, and Karl-Anthony Towns are all more than capable of lighting it up, as shown in their only game against the Spurs when the trio exploded for 60 combined points.
The Clippers and Lakers are my two favorite options for the second game. Between Anthony Davis (out for four weeks), Paul George (out indefinitely), and Kawhi Leonard (out indefinitely), the Spurs should hope to take on whoever is missing the most talent. Dejounte Murray has taken over the Spurs by now, but he remembers his two seasons with Leonard and might hold a grudge.
Leonard says he “feels a lot better,” which would be scary. Several times now he has returned from injury to dominate in the playoffs, and being the team to stand in his way is not a fun place to be. If he is not back, I’ll take my chances with the Clippers even if Paul George is back. LeBron is that scary.
If both are in full health and Anthony Davis is not back, the Lakers are an easier team to beat, especially if/when Russell Westbrook decides it’s his game to win. If, by some miracle, all three stars are back, I’ll take the Clippers.
As sweet as it would be to have the Spurs be the team that beat LeBron, it would be even better to finally get some revenge on Kawhi. Beating either Los Angeles team when they’re healthy is quite a feat, but revenge is a powerful thing.