For all of the regular season, the San Antonio Spurs held the top spot in the NBA and built a seemingly insurmountable lead over the rest of the league. But after a six-game losing streak -- recently snapped with a win over the Phoenix Suns -- the race for the top seed throughout the playoffs has turned into a down-the-wire finish.
So what went wrong?
Besides Tim Duncan being out in four games and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili missing one game a piece, the Spurs allowed 104.7 points per game in their last 11 games. They were 10th in the league in points allowed with 96.3 points per game during the first half of the season.
In their six game losing slump, San Antonio allowed their opponents to score 108.3 points per game while averaging just 102.5 points. During that span, the Spurs shot 47.8 percent from the field while allowing their opponents to 50.3 percent shooting from the floor.
Beside their glaring decline on the defensive end, Ginobili and Matt Bonner struggled with their shot. In those six losses, Ginobili shot 40.9 percent from the field and was only 32.3 percent from the 3-point area while Bonner was even worse, shooting just 38.8 percent from the field, including a horrible 26.0% from beyond the arc.
Most of the six losses went down-the-wire and it was evident they missed Duncan's leadership on the floor especially during crunch time.
However, not even the return of the Spurs' "Big Three" could help them stop the bleeding, losing to the Boston Celtics 107-97 in San Antonio last Thursday and then falling to the Houston Rockets 114-119 in overtime this past Friday night.
Because of their recent struggles, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls have caught up with them and are within striking distance for the top seed. Now, the top seed in the NBA playoffs could be decided on April 12 in Los Angeles when the Lakers host the Spurs.
What do the Spurs have to do?
Getting the win over the Suns was a start. However, the obvious answers are to improve on defense and hit their outside shots. Furthermore, go back to what got them the number one seed. Their style of play has been effective for most of the season but now since they are back on the winning track, play with a sense of urgency, lock up the number one seed ASAP, and rest.
What were your thoughts during the Spurs six-game losing streak? Did you hit the panic button?
McDyess has played well with the starting unit. The main problem lately was lack of perimeter shooting. But I admit the Spurs' defense took a step back since Blair went to the bench but I believe it was just coincidence. Tiago needs to play for the Spurs to be a better defensive team.
In my opinion, the Spurs starting five in ok it's just a matter of giving more minutes to Tiago and to a lesser extent James Anderson.
One win doesn't solve all the Spurs problems but it feels good. The next few games will be crucial in getting the number one seed.
I agree with @JohnAbney the Spurs must try bringing Blair back as the starting center or experiment on starting Splitter alongside Duncan and see what happens. I think it's worth a shot.
A lot of things went against the Spurs during the losing steak, but to take something positive out of it. Tiago prove he can play and could complement Tim Duncan and George Hill can really provide some offense when he is aggressive.
The win over the Suns is a good start but I'm not to impressed. They beat a team without Steve Nash, we will see if they can build momentum from this win. But your'e right defense and perimeter shooting will be key. And Manu has to shoot better and Bonner to a lesser extent should do the same.
Great stuff Robby. You hit the nail again on this one, it's no coincidence the Spurs won against Phoenix with their perimeter shooters making shots.
During those six game losing streak I almost always want to pull my hair during crunch time because of the Spurs mental lapses especially when Duncan was out.
well IMO they need to put blair back as the starter. mcdyess has been the starter throughout march and the spurs defense and really the whoele way they play has been changed starting in march. going back to what was working before is a good idea and i think thats a start.
mcdyess became the starter on march 9th. since then opponents have averaged 104 ppg. where we not in the upper 90's before that. also of those games, duncan only missed 4, and dyess missed one (making the duncan misses down to 3 ) so in the 10 games dyess has started with duncan playing, the opponents are averaging 103.2. espn has the spurs listed as 97.9 for the season and i believe before march they where averaging 96ish.
i just dont think duncan and dyess together at the same time is as effective as mcdyess coming in for duncan and bonner or splitter coming in for blair. blair while short plays closer to the basket, and dyess and duncan play similar games, generally just outside the paint. having 2 guys like that doesnt bode well for defense even if the 2 guys are good defender.
IMO blair needs to start or splitter and have bonner/blair and dyess come in off the bench. mcdyess is a better back up to duncan then he is complement.
from a defensive standpoint i think is a much better idea. then a bonner/blair/mcdyess mix after them. never blair/bonner together though. IMO blairs defense is to weak, and bonners is worse. as long s dyess or duncan are in the game with blair or bonner im ok with it. i am just not a fan of duncan and mcdyess playing at the same time. the only issue i have with thiago is he has not grasp the rotations, and he hardly ever has his hands up. sean elliott was talking about it a couple of games ago (while tim was out maybe a portlands game) he should always have his hands up, in someones face blocking views what ever but he only puts them up when his man is shooting. this i think is the reason he gets so many fouls also. he can be slow to get a hand in the face so he gets called even when he hasnt actually fouled, just looks like he did.