With 52 games of their season complete after the blowout win over the Magic Sunday, the San Antonio Spurs are currently 9th out West with a 26-26 record. Let’s jump right into the day off where the following topics will be explored:
- Lonnie Walker IV’s return
- The Final 20 Games of the Regular Season
Lonnie Walker IV’s Return
Since Lonnie Walker IV returned to the lineup after he had to miss nine straight games due to a wrist injury, the Spurs have gone 2-1. The Spurs barely lost to the Nuggets, got an upset win over the Mavericks, and blew out the Magic.
First let’s focus in on where Lonnie’s top two shots are coming from – the 3-point line and attacking the rim.
46% of Lonnie’s shots come from three, where he’s knocking down 36% of those looks. The next shot he goes to is attacking the rim, by attempting 27% of his shots from the restricted area (closest area to the basket), and where he’s making 55% of those attempts.
When Walker IV was about to make his return against the Nuggets, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said Walker IV gives the Spurs, “another 3-point shooter. Somebody who can hit shots from range and attack the basket.”
Walker IV has provided the Spurs with spacing and a threat from the outside. 51% of his 3-point attempts are attempted wide open and he’s making 41% of his wide open 3s. Only Lonnie and Patty Mills are making over 40% of their wide open 3s among rotation players.
This shows that they’re the only two players a defense may be afraid of backing off of from outside to try to pack the paint.
Having Lonnie back gives the Spurs another player who can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, or kick out to teammates. Lonnie is fifth on the team behind DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Derrick White in total drives. Here’s what each player does when driving the ball (minimum 100 drives):
Aside from getting to the free throw line, Lonnie is similar to DeRozan when driving the ball in the chance that he’ll attempt a shot or pass out to a teammate.
On the defensive end, Lonnie gives the Spurs another versatile defender to matchup against on the perimeter. This was the case in the recent win over the Dallas Mavericks, where along with Murray and White, the Spurs gave Lonnie the assignment of guarding Luka Doncic as his primary matchup when he checked into the game off the bench.
Against the Nuggets, Lonnie guarded Monte Morris, a point guard, and then against the Magic, he defended Terrence Ross, who plays a similar position at shooting guard.
Coach Popovich commented how Walker IV’s team defense has improved this season.
As far as some of the impacts of having Lonnie back on the team as a whole, that’s clear in the bench scoring.
While the Spurs’ bench was outscored by the Nuggets bench by 6 points, San Antonio won the bench battle in the next two matchups, outscoring the Mavericks bench by 5 points and the Magic bench by 9 points.
In the event Mills or Gay are cold off the bench in a game, Lonnie provides a third scorer who could put up 10 or more points on a given night from the bench.
With Lonnie back, the Spurs have seen an increase in their percent of 3s that are wide open in 2 of the 3 games. Against the Nuggets, just 33% of the Spurs’ 3s were wide open. However, against the Mavericks and Magic, 52% of the Spurs’ 3s were wide open. For the season, only 45% of the Spurs’ 3s are attempted wide open.
Here are a few other numbers that stick out on offense from the last 3 games:
-The Spurs have shot 37% from three (season average is 35%) on average in their last 3 games.
-The Spurs have collected 30 or more assists in 2 of their last 3 games.
-The Spurs have scored over 15 fast break points in all 3 games.
While it’s just a small sample size of 3 games, Walker IV has helped the Spurs get out of their 5 game losing streak and get back on a winning streak for the first time since March 19.
The Final 20 Games of the Regular Season
The Spurs are entering the final run of their season with the final 20 games beginning Wednesday vs the Raptors.
Here’s how the standings currently look out West from 6th through 12th:
6th – Trail Blazers 31-22
—Play-in game teams—
7th – Mavericks 29-24
8th – Grizzlies 27-25
9th – SPURS 26-26
10th Warriors 26-28
—Cut off for play-in games—
11th Pelicans 25-29
12th Kings 22-32
Among the seven teams listed above, the Spurs have the most difficult schedule in the group according to Tankathon.com.
Throw in that the Spurs don’t have consecutive days off until the season is over, and the Spurs have a major challenge in front of them to either move up in the standings, or to hold on to the 9th or 10th slot to at least be part of the play-in game.
But, as the team showed with their win against Dallas this week, they are capable of getting wins against teams that are favored against them, with San Antonio being 12-14 as underdogs this season.