The San Antonio Spurs have advanced to the NBA playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons, a record-tying streak. Tonight, they take on the Utah Jazz with hopes that their streak will extend to 23.
Unfortunately, San Antonio’s destiny is no longer controlled by the Silver and Black. Not only do the Spurs need to defeat the Jazz, they need two of three three teams ahead of them in the standings to lose.
What are the chances of that happening? It’s possible but not probable. Each of those three teams — the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns — are favored to win their games. At this point, it’d take a minor miracle for the Spurs to get in.
Here’s a look at today’s games that impact the Spurs’ playoff hopes, in the order the games will be played.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have the best record in the NBA. If these two teams matched up at any other point in the season, Milwaukee would be the big favorites.
Sadly, the Bucks have no motivation to win this game. They will be playing the end of their bench. Even if Milwaukee wanted to use this game as a tune-up, Giannis Antetokounmpo is suspended due to a headbutt. Moreover, Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins is a former assistant coach for Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, so Coach Bud gifting his former assistant a playoff berth could be on his mind.
San Antonio’s hopes for a Bucks win will rely on the facts that the Bucks are deep and the Grizzlies have been really bad in the restart. If the Grizzlies freeze up even more due to the pressure, it’s not impossible that they’d lose to the Bucks.
Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Suns are 7-0 in the restart. Despite going undefeated, they still need to beat the Mavs and have either the Grizzlies or the Blazers lose to make the playoffs.
The Mavs are locked into the seventh seed in the Western Conference. They don’t have any reason to play the Suns tough.
That said, the Mavericks did defeat the Jazz recently while resting Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Like the Bucks, Dallas has a good amount of depth. The Suns deserve to be heavy favorites in this game but the Mavs will have a chance.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
The Jazz are locked into the sixth seed in the West and already know they will play the Denver Nuggets in the first round. Expect them to rely heavily on their bench against the Spurs.
If both the Grizzlies and the Suns win, the Spurs would be eliminated before this game even begins. Regardless, it’s unlikely that San Antonio’s strategy will change. They’ve relied on young players in the bubble and would continue to do so.
The Spurs are favored — but let’s not forget that the Jazz’s bench almost beat the Spurs less than a week ago. The good guys should win this game but it’s not a sure thing. Of course, if the Spurs lose, they are eliminated from the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets are locked into the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. With a win, the Blazers would grab the eighth seed in the West.
With Damian Lillard on fire and the Nets having nothing to play for, this looks like an easy win for the Blazers.
An optimist from South Texas would point to the fact that the Nets have won three in a row and five of their last six — even though they’ve rested some starters during those games. Former Spurs assists Jacque Vaughn has his team playing hard. And it was less than a week ago that the Blazers lost to a Los Angeles Clippers team that wasn’t really trying to win.
If the Spurs are still alive tonight when the Blazers take on the Nets, that will mean San Antonio beat Salt Lake City and either the Grizzlies or the Suns lost. It’d be a long-shot … but if Lillard is cold, the Blazers get tight and Vaughn does Pop a favor and goes for the W? There’d definitely be a chance, albeit slim, that the streak could be extended to 23.