Now that All-Star weekend has come and gone, let’s check in on an annual San Antonio Spurs benchmark to see how the team is faring based off one of their own past benchmarks.
The benchmark is to see how the team played from Christmas to the All-Star break. I first learned about this benchmark during the 2014-15 season, when former Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown visited San Antonio as the head coach of Philadelphia. That day, in a pregame media scrum, Brown revealed how when he was with the Spurs, they liked to use the timeframe from after Christmas to the All-Star break to get an edge over their opponents and use that motivation to carry them forward after the All-Star break into the playoffs.
“We sort of look to Christmas, and what goes on after Christmas to the All-Star break,” said Brown that day. “We always talked about ramping stuff up right before the All-Star break, when people were getting used to going on holidays. We felt like there was a weakness then, (and) you could just jump on it. The mindset of Post All-Star break, that’s sort of been the rhythm with him (Gregg Popovich) for me, since I was here.”
Now, using the data from the 2014-15 season on-forward, let’s see how the 2018-19 Spurs played during that time period.
|Season||Start to X-mas||After X-mas to ASB||After ASB to End|
As you can see from the numbers above, this year’s Spurs team got off to a rough start from the beginning of the season to Christmas, with a record only two games above .500 at 18-16. Then from mid-December to mid-January, the team got healthy and started playing much improved defense with a strong homestand. However, toward the end of January to hitting the road on the Rodeo Road trip, the injury bug bit the team again (specifically to Derrick White) and the Spurs finished with a 15-10 record from after Christmas to the All-Star break.
That 15-10 record is the 12th best in the league during that time frame and 7th best in the Western Conference, matching the Spurs’ current overall record of 33-26 today, where they do sit 7th in the Western Conference standings.
Now, with 23 games left beginning Friday in Toronto, the question will be how the Spurs fill in their record from after the All-Star break to the end of the season. Last season, the team struggled without Kawhi Leonard, as they barely stayed a game above .500 during that stretch and they eventually were dealt a round one playoff matchup with the Warriors, which San Antonio lost in five games.
Here’s a breakdown of the Spurs’ opponents based on winning percentage left in their final 23 games.
|Opponent Winning Percentage||Games left||Spurs’ current record vs those types of teams|
|Between .500 and .600||4||6-10|
Here are the seven above .600 teams: Raptors, Thunder, Nuggets twice, Bucks, Warriors, Celtics
Here are the four teams between .500 and .600: Nets, Blazers, Rockets, Kings
Here are the twelve teams below .500: Knicks twice, Pistons, Hawks twice, Mavericks twice, Heat, Hornets, Cavaliers twice, Wizards
On paper, the Spurs’ schedule is favorable by one more game against teams below .500. But, the mindset of the team can’t be that they’ll walk into 12 wins against those below .500 teams, as they’ve demonstrated already this season with 10 losses to below .500 teams, including the Bulls and Suns being on that list.
The Spurs also have more home games (12) than road games (11) in these final 23 games, with just three back-to-back sets remaining.
As far as where the Spurs will end up overall, they need to go 14-9 to match last season’s record of 47 wins. To get to 50-wins, they’d have to go 17-6 the rest of the way. Based on how they’ve performed against the above .600, the between .500 and .600, and below .500 teams, the Spurs are projected to win 46 games by season’s end. That’s a much higher projection than where their expected wins per 82 games currently stands on CleaningTheGlass.com. On CTG, they’re currently projected to win just 43 games this season.
As I wrote last week, for this Spurs team to have success, they need the one thing that is sometimes out of their control – remaining healthy. If they can get their core nine rotation of Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans, and Jakob Poeltl together in the same game for most of these final 23 games, they have a chance to not only pass those current win projection numbers, but secure a playoff seed and try to move up as much as possible in the standings.