With a 9-8 record, the San Antonio Spurs sit in the middle of the Western conference pack. If the regular season ended today, they’d qualify for the playoffs, but just barely — via a tie-breaker with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Will the Spurs soon raise the level of their game?

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express News reports:

After back-to-back homecourt losses to the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets, the Spurs head to the scene of one of their worst losses of the season with a sense their season has reached an early turning point.

The Jazz’s motivation is much simpler. They need a victory over any team to erase the embarrassment of Saturday night’s loss to Minnesota. The Timberwolves had won only two games before coming from 14 points down to beat a Jazz team that coach Jerry Sloan says didn’t defend in the second half.

The Spurs, 9-8 after back-to-back losses, approach tonight’s game with a fair amount of optimism. But they also understand that this revamped roster — one which many hoped would position them for a title run — needs to begin showing results, and soon.

“This stretch of games right here is really good for us,” Spurs captain and leading scorer Tim Duncan said. “We need to turn a corner and learn things about ourselves and become a better team.”

Right now, it’s hard to take the Spurs seriously as a championship contender. Perhaps that’ll change in the near future.