Despite falling twice in New York to the Brooklyn Nets (46-24) and New York Knicks (39-31), the San Antonio Spurs locked up the tenth and final play-in spot in the Western Conference thanks to help from the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies defeated the Sacramento Kings 116-110 in Memphis on Thursday night, officially eliminating Sacramento from a play-in berth. As a result, the Spurs will need to win games over both the 9-seed and the loser of the seventh/eighth place game.
Here’s a mini recap of the games against the Nets and Knicks:
Wednesday: Spurs 116, Nets 128
The Spurs kicked off their New York back-to-back with a 128-116 loss to the Nets on Wednesday night.
San Antonio had no answer for James Harden, who returned from an 18-game absence. He scored 18 points and dished out 11 assists for Brooklyn while Landry Shamet scored 21 points and Nicolas Claxton had a career-high 18 points.
Brooklyn led by as many as 19 points in the game and never trailed after halftime.
“If everybody who played the first three quarters had moved like the guys that played the last eight minutes, we would have been in a lot better shape,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s what makes you a really good team when you have that competitiveness.”
DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 21 points and five assists. Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray each added 15 while Rudy Gay came off the bench to score 10 points.
Thursday: Spurs 98, Knicks 102
The Spurs closed out their New York trip with a 102-98 loss to the Knicks on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The loss will likely sting for the Spurs, who blew a 17-point lead in the second half.
Alec Burks scored a season-high 30 points and Julius Randle added 25 for New York, who is fighting to secure home court in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. RJ Barrett scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half as the Knicks outscored the Spurs 29-21 in the fourth quarter to grab the win.
“Randle got away from us,” Popovich said. “He made some great passes and they shot close to 50 percent from 3 in that half and that was the killer.”
San Antonio led by 17 points in the third quarter and were led by DeRozan’s 27 points and eight assists in the game. Defensively, they could not put a handle on Burk or Randle, who combined for 55 points.
Murray had 14 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. Keldon Johnson had 13 points and Lonnie Walker IV chipped in 12 points.
Despite the loss, the good news for the Spurs is they are in the play-in game. Now what they do once they are there remains to be seen.
“It’s going to be a dog fight,” DeRozan said. “We got to be the ones to show who wants it more. It’s a unique situation. I’m pretty sure we’re all going to approach it together as one. Whatever expertise, I can (share) from being in the playoffs, I’m going to do that.”
The Spurs are now 33-37 on the season and will return to the court on Saturday afternoon to close out the regular season with a back-to-back set against the Phoenix Suns.