SPURS GAMEDAY: Missing playoffs possibility for reeling Silver and Black

Spurs have dropped to sixth in West with 19 games left on schedule

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Memphis Grizzlies (18-44) vs. Spurs (36-27)

When, where: Monday, 7:30 p.m., AT&T Center

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Season series: Spurs lead 3-0

Last meeting: Spurs 108, Grizzlies 85, Jan. 24, Memphis

Grizzlies last game: Lost to Magic 107-100, Saturday, Orlando

Spurs’ last game: Lost to Lakers 116-112, Saturday, AT&T Center

Grizzlies’ last 10 games, streak: 0-10, lost 13

Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 2-8, lost two

Spurs’ injury report: LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained right ankle) is questionable for Monday’s game. Kawhi Leonard (rehabbing quad injury) is out.

Notable: The Spurs have started 22 different lineups this season . . . Spurs center Pau Gasol is averaging 3.0+ assists for the 11th season in his career. The only other 7-footer in NBA history with more years of 3+ assists: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (15).


Facing the toughest schedule in the Western Conference down the homestretch, the Spurs could be in jeopardy of seeing their 20-year streak of playoff seasons come to an end.

San Antonio hasn't missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 season, when Tim Duncan was a senior at Wake Forest. The Spurs selected the Big Fundamental with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 draft and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Silver and Black held down third place in the Western Conference standings for most of the season, but slipped to sixth with Saturday's 116-112 gut-wrenching home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The loss was the sixth in the last seven games for the Spurs, who have blown fourth-quarter leads in five of those defeats. They led the Lakers by 17 points midway through the third quarter and by 12 with 5:43 left, before rookie point guard Lonzo Ball sparked L.A. to a 25-9 run that buried S.A.

Manu Ginobili pretty much nailed it Saturday night when describing the dire straits the Spurs find themselves in with 19 games left on their schedule.

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"Halfway through the season, we were aiming for the third spot," Ginobili said. "Now we are aiming for the playoffs. A lot of things changed."

San Antonio (36-27) is only percentage points ahead of No. 7 Oklahoma City (37-28) and leads No. 8 Denver (35-28) by just one game. The Los Angeles Clippers (34-28) and Utah (33-30) are on the outside looking in at No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, but well within striking distance of a playoff spot.

The standings after No. 1 Houston (49-13) and No. 2 Golden State (49-14) are so tight that the next eight teams are separated by only four games.

Reeling from their fourth consecutive home loss, the Spurs host last-place Memphis (18-44) on Monday. Tipoff is at 7:30.

Guard Manu Ginobili had another strong game off the bench in Saturday's loss to the Lakers, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds and six assists.
(Antonio Morano bit.ly/XR79FT / Special to Kens5.com)

Veteran center Pau Gasol called the game against the Grizzlies "a must win" for a team that hasn't won at home since Jan. 30.

"There's no other way to approach that game," Gasol said. "It's in our hands. We've got a must game against the Grizzlies coming up, then we have three very difficult games on the road against top teams in the West. No time to feel sorry for yourself. You've just got to go out there and compete, do your best."

After playing Memphis, the Silver and Black take on defending league champion Golden State, Oklahoma City and Houston in consecutive road games over a five-day period. Fifteen of the Spurs' last 19 games are against opponents with a winning record.

"Every game is a must win," Ginobili said.

There's a possibility LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio's leading scorer, could return to action after spraining his right ankle in the first half of Wednesday's game against New Orleans. He left the game in the second quarter and hasn't played since then. The Spurs on Sunday upgraded Aldridge's status from doubtful to questionable.

The Spurs still are without All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, who has been limited to nine games this season by a lingering quad injury. The Silver and Black started the season without Leonard and point guard Tony Parker, who missed 19 consecutive games before making his debut Nov. 27.

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"It's very disappointing because we wanted to pick up where we left off last year after 61 wins, going to the conference finals," coach Gregg Popovich said. "So we really had high hopes to start out. And even without Tony and Kawhi to start, we did very well. And then we kind of hit a wall."

Up next for the Spurs after Monday's game: at Golden State, Thursday, 9:30 p.m.

Next Spurs home game after Monday: vs. Orlando, Tuesday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.