Season 51, Game 82
San Antonio 98, New Orleans 122
47-35, 7th in the West

A road win to end the regular season was probably too much to ask from this Spurs team; but was not getting blown out too tall of an order?

In a word: yes. This team continued its futility on the road, more or less giving up the game by halftime in New Orleans, along with it any chance of a higher seed or possible home court. (The way the final games ended up, I think a win would have only put them in the 6-seed, so not too much was lost.)

The Spurs’ complete futility on the road this season is utterly baffling. Do you remember the last road win? That would be February 25th in Cleveland. They come into the playoffs with 8 straight losses and having not won on the road in almost 50 days. Before the win in Cleveland they had lost their 4 previous road games. So for those keeping track at home, that’s a sterling record of 1-12 in their last 13 road games, dating back to February 10th.

More fun facts from the road: the Spurs ended the season 14-27 on the road, the worst road record of any team in the playoffs by a full 3 games (the Timberwolves are next with 17 road wins).

Some notable road wins this season:

–The Miami Heat on October 25th, a whopping 17-point win against a playoff team.
–A 2-point win against Portland on December 20th.
–The aforementioned win in Cleveland.

That’s it; those are the team’s only road wins against other playoff teams.

On the flip side, the team is damn near elite at home. They finished the season 33-8 at home. The only two teams better? The Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors (both at 34-7), the top two teams in each conference. Only three other teams in the entire NBA even had 30 home wins: the Timberwolves, the Nuggets, and the 76ers.

The team ended the season with 11 straight home wins, dating back to the beginning of March. And these aren’t bad teams; they had wins over the Warriors, the Rockets, the Pelicans, the Timberwolves, the Wizards, the Jazz, the Thunder, and the Blazers. That’s 8 playoff teams.

The Spurs are basically a 1-seed at home and a lottery-team on the road. They haven’t lost at home in over a month and haven’t won on the road in nearly two.

Which leads us to the playoffs. The pessimist’s take: if you can’t win on the road and you’re the lower seed, what chance do you have? The optimist’s take: if you’re unbeatable at home, all you have to do is find a way to steal a game on the road to get the upset.

Most Spurs’ fans are (rightfully) in the pessimist’s camp. But there’s reason for optimism, because the Spurs opponent is the Golden State Warriors.

Yes, they are the defending champs. Yes, they’ve given the Spurs fits over the last few years in ways both dominating and heartbreaking. There’s no reason to give the Spurs any sort of chance, particularly with how inconsistent the team has been all year and how impotent their offense has generally been.

But this isn’t “The Warriors”. This is a team also struggling with injuries to their most important (if not best) player. This is a team struggling to find consistency and rhythm at the end of the season, going a meager 7-10 in the final stretch of games with some bad losses. This is a team who have been to 3 straight finals, who had no motivation during the regular season, and who are hoping to “flip the switch”.

If ever a team was ripe for an unexpected upset, it’s these Warriors.

Unfortunately, the Spurs are probably the team least-equipped to pull off that upset. But the chance still remains. If the Spurs can remain elite at home, they can easily push this to a 6 or 7 game series. All they need to do, then, is steal one of those road games, a seemingly impossible task.

But I remember March 8th, the night the Spurs lost in Oakland to the Warriors. Steph Curry left the game early with injury, and the Spurs faltered in the final minutes to lose the game by 3. But it was there for them to take. A few bounces go a different way, and the Spurs win that game. I look to that game because it featured basically the exact same rosters each team will enter the playoffs with. That night, the Spurs proved they can compete against the Warriors on the road. That’s all we can ask for: competitive spirit.

There’s little reason for optimism, but there’s plenty of reason for hope.

The Spurs and Warriors open the 2018 NBA Playoffs Saturday afternoon.

Go Spurs Go.