SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs ended a strange and arduous season with a record of 33-39, and they'll have a few days off before heading to Memphis to face the Grizzlies in a one-game loser goes home postseason showdown.
San Antonio had nothing to gain or lose in their final regular season game against the Phoenix Suns, but coach Gregg Popovich wanted his guys to get into a rhythm.
Pop pulled the key players for the final quarter, and liked what he saw from the group that closed the game. Keita Bates-Diop finished a put-back on a free throw to put the Spurs in front with 10 seconds left, but a late three won it for Phoenix 123-121.
None of that mattered in the grand scheme of things, as San Antonio was locked into the tenth seed. The Grizzlies and Warriors played each other on Sunday afternoon with the winner locking in the eighth seed and a date with the seventh seed, which could be the Lakers or Trailblazers. Memphis lost 113-101 behind a scoring title clinching performance from Steph Curry, so the Grizzlies will host San Antonio on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
The winner of Warriors vs. Lakers/Blazers becomes the seventh seed in the playoffs, and the loser will host the winner of Spurs vs. Grizzlies on Friday for the right to be the eighth seed.
In other words, the Spurs need to go on the road and beat the Grizzlies and then beat either the Warriors, Lakers or Blazers in a loser-goes-home game. If things don't pan out that way, San Antonio will get a top 12 pick. Losing Sunday tied the Spurs with the Hornets record-wise, and the tie would need to be broken to decide 11th vs. 12th in the draft lottery.
Spurs players spoke Sunday afternoon about the underdog role they've played for most of the year. Jakob Poeltl said it would allow them to play more freely. Patty Mills talked about how the Spurs have been overlooked for a lot of his time in San Antonio, even when they were competing for titles. He said that if the Spurs can apply pressure early, they can make their opponents feel all of the pressure.
The Spurs won the first game of the season in Memphis 131-119, but the Grizzlies blew San Antonio out in back-to-back games before the All Star break to take the season series.
Ja Morant is a bona-fide star surrounded by quality role players like Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas, Desmond Bane and De'Anthony Melton.
Morant picked the Spurs apart in those three games, but he will face a different Spurs defense because these teams haven't played since LaMarcus Aldridge's departure and Jakob Poeltl's well-deserved promotion.