- The San Antonio Spurs are looking to keep their 22-year playoff streak alive despite just a 22-30 record so far this season
- Youthful Pelicans and Grizzlies are currently the frontrunners for the 8th seed
- San Antonio is winless since February 1st with two more games before the All-Star break
The San Antonio Spurs’ 22-year playoff streak is tied for the longest in NBA history. The record breaking 23rd consecutive post-season appearance is under serious threat as we head down the stretch of the regular season, however.
San Antonio are 22-30, four games back in the loss column from the Memphis Grizzlies, the current occupants of the eight seed.
NBA Playoff odds have fluctuated all season long. The demise of the Golden State Warriors opened up the postseason race at the bottom of the Western Conference. The Grizz, Pels, Blazers and Spurs are all priced between +140 and +450 to make the playoffs. It’s going to be a great contest over the closing weeks of the season.
2019-20 Western Conference Playoff Odds
|Team||Odds to Make Playoffs||Odds to Miss Playoffs|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+210||-250|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||-1000||+700|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+140||-160|
|San Antonio Spurs||+450||-600|
Odds taken Feb. 10th
Clashes With New Orleans and Memphis
The Spurs have four games remaining against the Pels and Grizz. Going 2-2 over those four is the bare minimum if Gregg Popovich is to guide his team back to the playoffs and a likely first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Three of the four come against New Orleans, with the solitary Memphis matchup on March 16th, two nights before a trip to The Big Easy.
A veteran-led Spurs team taking on the Pelicans and Grizzlies is a mismatch when it comes to experience, but the Spurs have already lost twice to Memphis this season and gave up 22 points to Zion Williamson in just 18 minutes last month.
The middle of March is a key time for the Spurs. The Grizzlies and Pelicans games are sandwiched by the visits of the Timberwolves and Bulls. A 4-0 run in that week could prove to be a springboard for the rest of the season and take them into a stretch of four games in six days with two against the Jazz before travelling to face Minnesota and Denver.
Importance of Experience
Dealing with the rigors of an NBA season can be a big ask for young players. Williamson isn’t going to be struggling with wear and tear, but Memphis may have more of an issue with Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Luka Doncic faded in the second half of last season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either injuries or fatigue impact the youthful core of the Grizz.
San Antonio have no such issue. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, two long-time NBA stars, have been trending upwards this season, perhaps beginning to hit their stride into Spring. DeRozan is averaging 25.1 points per game over the last ten and Aldridge has started to take threes, opening up the floor.
The former Blazers big man is hitting 41% of his shots from beyond the arc on the season.
Experience will be important in the four remaining matchups against the Pels and Grizz. Popovich will need big performances from his key veterans. Another streak like DeRozan enjoyed a few weeks ago could turn the Spurs’ season – he’s shooting over 53% from the field and has found his space in the Spurs offense since Aldridge started spacing the floor.
DeRozan has played 74 or more games in each of the last four seasons. Aldridge hasn’t played fewer than 69 since 2011/12. They are two of the NBA’s most reliable, if unspectacular, stars. The Spurs are going to be around the eight seed, waiting to pounce on a slip up from their less experienced rivals.
Playoffs Out of Reach?
The Spurs, Blazers, Grizzlies and Pelicans are 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th in net rating for the season. San Antonio are top of that quartet, but there’s barely anything splitting them. That’s unsurprising considering their relatively similar records at this stage. The concern for the Spurs comes with the numbers more recently.
Over the last 15 games, San Antonio are 20th with a net rating of -2.0. Memphis are at 3.7 and New Orleans at 2.1.
With seven losses in their last nine, the trends aren’t looking good for the Spurs extending their playoff streak. Their current road trip finishes off with games against the Nuggets, Jazz and two against the Thunder. What has been an historic streak, with rings collected along the way, is at risk.
None of the Spurs’ top six four-man combinations by net rating include DeRozan or Aldridge. San Antonio have been struggling defensively all year. Their experience, and a sprinkling of their own young talent, might be able to pull them through to a 23rd year in the postseason, but it feels like it’s a long way off.
Taking games off Memphis and New Orleans seems like a must. The Spurs have a relatively favourable schedule from here on (ranked 12th-easiest in the NBA per Tankathon), but the Pels and Blazers have plenty of winnable games left, too.
The ‘not to make playoffs’ at -600 is very short. The +450 to make the playoffs doesn’t represent any value, however.
Damian Lillard’s performances, the arrival of Zion Williamson and the continued brilliance of Ja Morant put the playoffs out of the Spurs’ reach as it stands.
Pick: Spurs not to make playoffs -600
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