More than halfway into the season and the Spurs continues to struggle. They can't seem to find a rhythm. They are in the midst of a slump, losing five of their last seven games, including 3 straight home losses. As it is, the Spurs have fallen into fifth place in the Western Conference with a 26-18 record and are just 1 1/2 game ahead of 9th placed New Orleans.
The Spurs are probably playing their worst basketball in recent memory and are in a rough stretch. To give an idea on how bad the Spurs are playing, consider these stats. The Spurs are just 4-13 in games decided by 7 points or less, 4-5 against top 8 teams in the East, 2-11 against top 8 teams in the West, 9-15 against teams above .500 and 6-16 against playoff caliber teams.
The Spurs' last five games (prior to the game against Atlanta) have been frustrating and their defense seems to be a step behind, allowing opponents to shoot 48.9% from the field while making just 41.3% of their shots.
Their assists went down as well, averaging 17 compared to 22.8 by their opponents. Although that could be the effect of poor field goal shooting.
Free throws continues to be a main concern, they are getting enough shot attempts but are not converting them. Shooting 69.8% from the foul line during that stretch.
If there are any indications of improvements, the Spurs are taking care of the ball fairly well, are playing hard and fighting hard. Most of their recent games have come down the wire. The only problem is they can't get the win in any of those games.
Aren't the Spurs supposed to perform lock down defense? Make stops when needed and close out opponents in "grind-it-out" type of games?
Right now it isn't the case. They are currently 9th in the league in defensive efficiency and 6th in effective field goal percentage. While this indicates good defense, it also says they still need to improve. On the other hand, their offense looked to be in good shape as they are 7th in the league in offensive efficiency.
However, they are living and dying by the 3 point shot. The Spurs are 19-5 when they shoot a better percentage on 3's, but are only 16-14 when the team has more 3 point attempts and are 9-3 when they have lesser 3 point shot attempts.
Does this mean this the Spurs should focus more on scoring in the inside and try to create more scoring opportunities down low?
More importantly, are the Spurs losing their identity as a tough defensive team and are trying to outscore opponents rather than giving premium on defense? Are they relying more on offense to win games?
These are the questions that need answers. The Spurs are wise enough to know this, if they really want to contend for the title this season. They need to put their hard hats on and start playing stingy defense just like in the past.
In other words they need to bring their defensive intensity to a higher level. That is from being good to great. Also just simply playing hard and consistent basketball for the whole 48 minutes will help.
The Spurs have to keep trying and believing in themselves. Getting wins like this could help them gain their confidence back. And it might just make the difference.
While the road ahead looks tough, the Spurs have to play smarter, harder and tougher. Winning their last two home games before their annual Rodeo Road Trip would be a nice start in building up much needed momentum.
The present looks bleak, but all hope is not lost. There is still enough time to catch up.
What are your thoughts? Are the Spurs becoming more offensive minded? Are they not putting enough emphasis on defense? Can we expect another run from the Spurs at the second half of the season? Leave your comments on this matter.