Sitting 12th in the Western Conference and 4 1/2 games out of the No. 8 seed entering the season restart, the San Antonio Spurs were considered a long shot to clinch an NBA-record 23rd consecutive postseason berth.
However, after earning a pair of wins to begin its eight-game seeding schedule, San Antonio's playoff chances are very much alive and well. Gregg Popovich's club has climbed up to the 9-seed and is just two games back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the West's final playoff spot.
"At the end of the day, if you're showing up to lose a basketball game, you shouldn't be here," Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray said following the Spurs' 108-106 win over the Grizzlies on Sunday, according to ESPN's Royce Young. "Obviously, we don't have some players playing, but it's a next-man-up league. We're pros and we get paid to step up and do our jobs. We can't control what people say on the outside. We've got to keep the love and keep the faith inside the locker room."
The Spurs were dealt a tough blow prior to the season resuming in Orlando with news that star big man LaMarcus Aldridge would be out for the remainder of the campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Without the services of the team's second-leading scorer and top rebounder, San Antonio has relied on the likes of Murray, DeMar DeRozan, and Derrick White to carry the load on both ends. So far, the shorthanded Spurs have proven they're up to the task of replacing Aldridge's production.
"When we came in there was a lot of confidence in the group we had, so just keep playing and get better every time we're out there," White said. "It doesn't change much for us. We've got a lot of work to do to get to the playoffs."
Five of the six remaining opponents on San Antonio's seeding-game schedule are above .500 and occupy a playoff spot entering play Monday.
The Spurs will look to improve to 3-0 inside the bubble when they face the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.