Can The San Antonio Spurs Advance From The Play-In Tournament And Win The West?

Here’s why you should consider betting on the Spurs to win the NBA Western Conference, according to MaximBet.

Head coach Gregg Popovich and Keldon Johnson of the San Antonio Spurs
(Getty Images)

Perhaps you have seen the old videotapes of Allan Houston punching the air, or Dikembe Mutombo hugging a basketball on the floor.

If not, you should give those phrases the ole YouTube search, but either way, here is the context: 

Houston and Mutombo played for teams that qualified for the NBA Playoffs as a No. 8 seed and knocked off a No. 1 seed. New York even made it all the way to the NBA Finals, a postseason run that made Jeff Van Gundy’s career. It was the only time in league history that a No. 8 seed has gone all the way to the championship round. 

No. 8 seeds that have defeated No. 1 seeds also include the 2012 Philadelphia 76ers (vs. Chicago), the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies (vs. San Antonio) and the 2007 Golden State Warriors (vs. Dallas). 

It has been 23 years since an 8-seed made the NBA Finals, and nobody is predicting that it is going to happen this year … unless the Brooklyn Nets come out of the play-in tournament as a No. 8 seed, in which case everyone will be predicting it. 

But what about the West?

The San Antonio Spurs clinched a spot in the play-in tournament by defeating the Denver Nuggets 116-97 as 9-point underdogs at MaximBet Sportsbook. At the same time, the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from contention with a 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

We now know that the Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans will be playing in a No. 9 vs. No. 10 play-in game next week, although we do not yet know who will host the game. The Pels have a one-game lead on the Spurs but would lose the tiebreaker if the teams finish with the same record. 

New Orleans has games remaining Thursday night against Portland and Sunday night against Golden State with a road game Saturday night at Memphis. The Spurs have road games at Minnesota on Thursday and at Dallas on Sunday before a season finale Saturday night against the Warriors.

“It’s not like we’re world-beaters,” coach Gregg Popovich said following the win at Denver, per ESPN.

No, they are not. 

But they did not even have their best player, Dejounte Murray, in the victory over Denver, and you may remember that Popovich has a recent history of not doing all that well with his team before getting the job done when it counted. 

That is what happened last summer when Pop coached Team USA. He had exhibition losses against Australia and Nigeria before taking the team to Japan, losing the opener against France and then knocking off all opponents the rest of the way to win the Gold Medal with a thrilling 87-82 victory over France. You never want to count Pop out. He’s arguably the greatest coach who ever stepped on an NBA hardcourt.

Pretty much nobody is betting on the Spurs to win the West, which MaximBet has listed with the longest odds of any sportsbook in the U.S. at +11000. MaximBet said it has taken just 0.2 percent of its tickets and 0.0 percent of its handle on the Spurs to win the West. And 0.0 percent of handle means that there are a couple of $10 and $20 wagers out there to account for the 0.2 percent of tickets, but not much else.

So the question becomes: Are they wager-worthy?

And for that, we turned to the only basketball writer in America who covered both the 1993 SuperSonics-Nuggets series as well as the 1999 Knicks-Spurs NBA Finals. Both included No. 8 seeds who did the unimaginable—the Nuggets came from down 0-2 to knock out Seattle 3-2 in a best-of-5 first-round matchup, and the Knicks came out of the East as a No. 8 seed, with Van Gundy defeating mentor Pat Riley and the Miami Heat before falling short against San Antonio in the NBA Finals.

”If money is not an object, $10,000 is a decent wager because of the size of the payoff. If it is someone on a budget, 50 bucks on the Spurs winning the West seems about right,” said Mike Monroe, a former beat writer for the Denver Post and San Antonio Express-News. 

“Hey, upsets happen and unlikely things happen. I personally do not think they could get past the Suns, but I also thought the Nuggets had no chance against the Sonics (in 1993),” said Monroe, who recalled making a big deal about Seattle coach George Karl, with a 2-0 lead, booking the Sonics on a flight back to Seattle after Game 3 when teams flew commercial. The Sonics ended up taking that flight home and then returning to Denver, where they lost, and then dropped Game 5 in overtime.

Monroe, 76, has more gambling stories than most anyone, including a great one about getting tipped off in January on a trip to Las Vegas that a horse named Silver Charm was a terrific bet at 19-1 to win the Kentucky Derby later that year (1997). He called a horse tout from a pay phone outside at the Mirage and got the tip, then asked how much he should put down.

“How much do you have?” was the response. 

Monroe ended up putting in his own bet and a $2,000 wager for coach Dan Issel, and when Silver Charm went off as the 4-1 favorite and won by a nose, everybody who bet with Monroe won 19 times more than they laid out.

In this case, Monroe played devil’s advocate against himself and noted that the Spurs have currently won seven out of eight. The sole loss came by one point when Keldon Johnson missed a layup at the buzzer against the Memphis Grizzlies off a play drawn up perfectly by Popovich, who has been at this for a while. San Antonio lost by 5, 14, 4 and 4 in four games vs. Phoenix.

“Look, Jacob Poeltl is better than people know, especially defensively, and could give DeAndre Ayton some trouble. Dejounte Murray is rangy enough to conceivably give Chris Paul some trouble, although Chris Paul pretty much doesn’t have any trouble with anyone. And Josh Richardson has been coming off the bench and making 44 percent of his 3s, while Keldon Johnson is shooting 40 percent on 3s. So you just never know what could happen,” Monroe said.

The Spurs must get there first, which would not only require a do-or-die win against the Pelicans, but also a subsequent win against the loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 play-ingame, which will likely match the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Last season, the eighth-seeded Grizzlies took Game 1 on the road at Utah but could not build off that victory, losing the next four. It is a reach to even imagine the Spurs getting that far, which is why their odds are so off the charts. 

But some folks like longshots, and a lot of folks believe in Coach Pop.

Unlikely? Yes. Unfathomable? Not at all. Just ask Mutombo, Houston or Monroe. They have not only seen it, they have lived it.

Ready for some NBA Playoffs action? Take advantage of MaximBet’s massive welcome offer that puts a 100% bonus up to $1,000 back into your betting account after your first deposit. Sign up here today to maximize your sports betting experience with MaximBet.