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Spurs miss NBA playoffs for first time since 1997

San Antonio officially eliminated after Grizzlies, Suns both win

San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) has Black Lives Matters on the back of his jersey in a huddle before an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Friday, July 31, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) has Black Lives Matters on the back of his jersey in a huddle before an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Friday, July 31, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP) (Kim Klement)

ORLANDO – For the first time since 1997, the San Antonio Spurs will not compete in the NBA playoffs.

San Antonio was officially eliminated from playoff contention Thursday afternoon before they took the court for their final regular season game against the Utah Jazz. The currently 9th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies and 10th-seeded Phoenix Suns both won their last games against the Bucks and Mavs respectively, securing a better overall record (34-39) than the Spurs (32-39) based on percentage points. Memphis and Phoenix each played two more regular season games than San Antonio, and that made all the difference in the final calculation.

As a result, the Spurs’ remarkable NBA record-tying run of 22 straight playoff appearances comes to an end. San Antonio struggled throughout the regular season to stay close to the .500 mark, but played well inside the NBA bubble. In their seven games since the regular season restarted in Orlando, the Spurs posted five wins, but lost two critical games against the 76ers and Nuggets by a combined eight points. Memphis skidded down the stretch and tallied just two wins during the restart, while Phoenix swept all eight games they played. Adding to the frustration, San Antonio finished with better head-to-head records against the Grizzlies (3-2) and Suns (2-1) this season, but will finish behind both in the final standings.

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Head coach Gregg Popovich has seen plenty of positives from his young core, “This has been a win. At this point it’s been a huge success for our team, our young players and the development we’ve talked about since the beginning. We’re very happy with what’s going on here.”

It remains to be seen which teams will secure spots in this weekend’s play-in series. The Trail Blazers currently hold the 8th seed with a 34-39 record, and should Portland win their game against the Brooklyn Nets tonight, they will have two chances to secure a playoff spot against the Grizzlies. If the Blazers lose, Memphis will enter the play-in series as the 8th seed and have two chances to officially eliminate the Suns.

Whoever officially qualifies for the playoffs and faces the Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, it will mark the first time a Western Conference 8th seed has finished with a record below .500 since 1997.

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