Spurs hoping for one final push for playoffs

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It was easy for Corey Jefferson to sum up the Austin Spurs’ season in just one word: rollercoaster. 

The Spurs are 4-4 in the month of February after falling to the Iowa Energy 102-89 Sunday afternoon at the H-E-B Center. They are in the midst of their longest home/stand of the year, playing six games in Texas over the last week of February and the beginning of March. 

“Guys were getting to know each other and learning how to battle with each other,” Jefferson said. “We’re on the up portion of the district. Everybody is coming together and I feel like we’re one of the best teams in the league.”

Austin is 17-20 overall, nine games behind the Southwest Division-leading Oklahoma City Blue. The top four teams in each conference make the playoffs and the Spurs are five games behind fourth place with 13 games left. 

To even have a shot at making the playoffs for the fifth time in the lasts six seasons, head coach Ken McDonald thinks they need to win at least 10 of the final 13 games, a tough but achievable feat. 

“Our guys have come with a good approach,” McDonald said. “That’s a testament to the type of players we have. Now, we just have to keep our foot on the gas and understand that nobody is just going to bow down and give us a game.”

But the play since the new year has been getting better. Of Austin’s eight losses in January and February, five of them were by 10 points or less. 

Austin hosts the Long Island Nets Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the H-E-B Center and hosts  Delaware 87s at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on March 9 before hitting the road for five straight games. 

Jefferson was the Spurs’ representative at the NBA D-League All-Star game in New Orleans on Feb. 18. He played 14 minutes and finished with four points on 2-of-4 shooting. Since being acquired by the Spurs earlier in the season, the former Baylor player is averaging 15.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. 

“It was a good experience,” Jefferson said. “To go and play with some of the best players in the league and represent your team is a good feeling. Being able to see the big fellas out there and see what they do, it was fun to be entertaining.”

As with any D-League team, Austin has seen its fair share of turnover. Jarell Eddie has spent the better part of the last two seasons in Austin but was traded to the Windy City Bulls for Hollis Thompson in January. 

Subsequently, Thompson, who appeared in eight games and averaged 17 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists for Austin, was signed as a free agent by the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans after the NBA trade deadline. 

McDonald said the growth of players like Patricio Garino, Ryan Arcidiacono, Charles Garcia and Jefferson all deserve a shot in the NBA. But while they’re in the D-League, they really can help the Spurs reach the postseason. 

“We’re in a development league and it’s still about the guys developing,” McDonald said. “The guys have made really big strides. You can go right down the line. We’re excited that they’re all getting better and we’ve got to harness that team culture. That’s a big part of Spurs basketball.”

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