How the San Antonio Spurs can make the playoffs

On a day that was essentially win or go home for the Spurs, Popovich deflected the conversation from basketball.

Popovich made a 3-minute commentary about racial injustice — noting six years ago today, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson.

Pop noted that Brown was shot six times in the back, while running away, and the officer claimed he feared for his life.

“I can’t imagine being in fear for my life when someone is running away from me with their hands up,” Pop said. “That’s not too scary.”

Again, if the Spurs lost, their playoff chances were basically done. Pop answered basketball questions for four minutes. But he made sure to talk about Brown for nearly just as long, and encouraged us to take a minute to think about what happened Aug. 9, 2014.

As for the Spurs win, they once again exceeded expectations. 

The highlight player of the Spurs win was Drew Eubanks. Not familiar with the name? I don’t blame you.

Eubanks, an un-drafted player out of Oregon, is a second year player for the Spurs, tallying just 43 career games with averages of 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds. Nothing that makes him pop off the page. 

But on Sunday Eubanks was a deciding player in the win. Eubanks played 24 minutes thanks to Jakob Poeltl’s foul trouble, contributed 8 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals, and generally looked like a 10-year veteran out there. His energy was next level in comparison to the Pelicans reserves. 

Even in the last five minutes, with the Pelicans playing their best five-man lineup, and the Spurs without Derrick White, the Spurs out played the Pelicans. It became a throwback to the 2013 Toronto Raptors with DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay leading the way. 

The Spurs currently sit a half game behind the 9 seed Blazers, and one game behind the 8 seed Grizzlies. There is a real chance the Spurs once again sneak into the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season. 

Here is the breakdown for how the Spurs make the playoffs. 

First thing. The Spurs need to win their last two games of the regular season.

They play Houston on Tuesday and Utah on Thursday to close out their bubble games. Both of those teams are in the playoffs so it remains to be seen how they approach their matchups against San Antonio. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni reportedly announced on Monday that James Harden would not play against San Antonio.

If the Spurs win both games, they can get the 8th seed if:

  • Memphis loses its final two games
  • Portland and Phoenix lose one of their remaining games

San Antonio can get the 9th seed if:

  • Spurs win both games
  • Memphis, Portland and Phoenix lose one of its remaining games

Popovich has made it clear from the start that the priority of the bubble was not to make the playoffs, but to get better each day. And to his credit the Spurs have. The development of nobodies into productive role players (Eubanks, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, and Quinndary Weatherspoon) will help the Spurs in the long run beyond the bubble games.

But with the playoffs within reach, Popovich spoke on the possibility of making it into the dance.

“If were able to be in that 9th spot that would be quite a victory and it says a lot about how this young group has come together. I’m already thrilled by the way they played but that would be fantastic.”

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