By all accounts, the San Antonio Spurs weren't exactly playing for the NBA Play-In Tournament for most of the year. Wednesday night, they have a chance to begin a two-game win streak that would lead to the most unexpected playoff berth of the season.
Thanks to the tournament, the 34-48 Spurs can prove they were better than their record suggests by shocking a couple of teams and taking the 8th slot in the postseason. They'll be underdogs in both matchups -- early numbers from WynnBet suggest they'll lose by five points to the New Orleans Pelicans and that number would only increase if they advance.
Still, the Spurs were far more competitive this season than meets the eye. Their point differential on the year was higher than the 8th and 9th seeds in the Western Conference and if you've been watching this team at all, you know they can never be counted out until the buzzer sounds.
Ahead of Wednesday's do-or-die game, I surveyed our team of writers to get some predictions about the big game. Here's what we all had to say.
1. Which Pelican will give the Spurs the hardest time?
Will Eudy: Jonas Valanciunas. He’s such a tough, physical player and will be difficult to neutralize just because of his pure strength. He’s heavier than any player on the Spurs roster and will likely be making his presence felt most in the offensive rebounding department.
Ethan Farina: Herb Jones. His defensive versatility and speed could give the Spurs issues if he's able to disrupt their halfcourt offense and prevent Dejounte Murray from getting in his groove.
Jonah Kubicek: Brandon Ingram. He’s simply too long for Devin Vassell to reliably guard, and Murray will be busy locking down McCollum. (Ingram received 2 votes overall on this survey)
Cal Durrett: CJ McCollum. He averaged 26 points in four games against the Spurs this season, and he might burn the Spurs again. (McCollum received 3 votes overall)
Josh Paredes: I've been beating this drum since the matchup was locked in, but the Spurs absolutely must keep Jonas Valanciunas in check. He dropped 23 and 23 on them in last year's play-in game. Coach Popovich will focus on slowing him down, but sometimes, certain guys just love seeing Silver and Black across the court.
Up next, we predict Dejounte Murray's performance and who might help him out the most in the big game.