After winning just one of their last eleven games, the San Antonio Spurs record streak of 22 straight postseason appearances is in serious jeopardy. However, there is still a chance, albeit slim, that they can rally to make the playoffs for a 23rd straight season.
Last season, the Portland, Golden State, Oklahoma City and San Antonio were all playoff teams in the Western Conference, but this season all four teams would be on the outside looking in if the postseason started today.
The relative parity in the West provides the Spurs with an opportunity. The Phoenix Suns are currently eighth in the West despite being below .500 with an 8-9 record. Despite all their struggles, the Spurs are still only three games back.
That said, San Antonio has squandered one of the easiest schedules in the NBA. Even more concerning is that the Spurs are among the healthiest teams, which eliminates another convenient excuse for early-season struggles.
What Needs to Go Right for the Spurs to Make the Playoffs
FiveThirtyEight projects Minnesota to finish eighth in the West with a 43-39 record. If 43-39 is indeed what is needed to make the playoffs, the Spurs would need to go at least 37-26 the rest of the way. It’s a tall task for a team that has consistently been inconsistent, but not impossible. Last season, the Spurs started 11-14 but went 37-20 over the remaining 57 games of the season.
December is a crucial month in determining whether the Spurs can actually make a run towards the postseason, as eight of their 12 games are at home. Additionally, the Spurs have no back-to-backs in December and only have short road trips. It’s vital for the Spurs to come out of December with a record at or above .500, as the remaining of their schedule will be far tougher.
In the first 15 days of January, the Spurs play a home-and-home with Milwaukee along with games at Toronto, at Boston and at Miami. Each of those teams currently have fewer losses than the Spurs have wins.
From then on, it the road remains bumpy, including the annual eight-game Rodeo Road Trip. This year, that trip includes difficult games in Los Angeles against both the Clippers and Lakers, and contests in Denver and Salt Lake City.
With the way the schedule plays out, the Spurs will likely be out of realistic playoff contention by the end of January if they don’t make up significant ground in December. With the trade deadline being February 6th, the Spurs would still have time to pivot — possibly even tearing it down.
As it stands, San Antonio has been given less than a 1% chance to make the playoffs. While those odds seem rather low given this team’s history, the postseason has to be considered a long-shot. And if they’re going to turn it around, it needs to start now.