The Nuggets rode an all-around team victory, although a 35 point, 17 rebound game by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic certainly helped. The Spurs did not have anyone play that well, which was weird considering how exceptional the entire team was in Thursday’s win.
The loss to Denver aside, the Spurs have given fans plenty of reasons to be excited for the rest of the calendar year. The Spurs are only one and a half games back from the play-in tournament, and with only a quarter of the season played, the playoffs are still very much within the realm of possibility for the Silver and Black.
While the hardest parts of the schedule are still ahead of them, the Spurs could go into 2022 positioned very well within the Western Conference. Sunday, they play the New Orleans Pelicans. As far as back-to-backs go, not having to travel helps a lot, and with Zion still out, the Pelicans are a dumpster fire, so the Spurs should be able to breeze through New Orleans, knock on wood.
The Spurs then host the Hornets and then travel to Utah, with a day of rest in between. The Hornets got off to a very hot start but have cooled down, opposite to San Antonio, as of late. Utah is a very good team, although the matchups between Donovan Mitchell and Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gobert and Jakob Poeltl will be worth tuning in for, and the Spurs might surprise everyone and win that game.
The Spurs then travel to Sacramento to face a subpar Kings team, again with a day of rest. The Spurs should be able to win, and then, again, with rest, travel to the City of Angels to take on the Clippers and Lakers. Both teams are unpredictable, but the Spurs should at least take a win over one of those teams, right?
The Spurs have three days of rest after their west coast trip before hosting Detroit, one of the worst teams of all time. This should basically be another day of rest for them. The Spurs will end the month by playing three games in five nights–hosting Utah and Miami before traveling to Memphis. At best, the Spurs will win only one of those games.
Best case scenario, the Spurs will finish out this month going 7-3, which might be wildly optimistic. This would place them at 18-19, which, based on the rest of the conference thus far, could be good enough for the seventh seed.
This isn’t just a happy fan being too confident. Over the last five games, Lonnie Walker and Derrick White have finally been hitting their strides on the offensive end, which complements their great defense. Bryn Forbes is shooting 40% from behind the arc this season, and he’s been an automatic 47% in his last five games, which makes up for his slow start.
Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson both suffered mild injuries over the last two weeks, but with 15 points from Vassell off the bench Saturday and Johnson shooting 3/3 from deep for the first time in his career, it’s safe to say the two of them are firing on all cylinders.
Pair the rise of White and Walker with the consistent star power of Dejoutne Murray and Jakob Poeltl, and the Spurs may have finally hit their stride and could be a sleeping giant come spring.