The San Antonio Spurs have lost six straight games for the first time since they drafted Tim Duncan in 1997. The streak that started when Duncan missed four games with a sprained ankle, but has continued with losses to the Celtics and Rockets with Duncan in the lineup.
In the process, their lead in the loss column over the Los Angeles Lakers for the best record in the Western Conference has gone from seven games to one. And with the Lakers holding a 17-1 record since the All-Star break and set to host the Spurs on April 12, L.A. seemingly has the upper hand in the race for the No. 1 seed.
The Spurs still control their own destiny, but before they get to that critical game at Staples Center, they’ve got a few problems to address.
The Spurs’ problems begin and end with defense. In Thursday’s look at Defensive Player of the Year candidates, it was noted how much better the Spurs’ defense has been with Duncan on the floor.
But since March 1st, the Spurs’ defense has declined with Duncan both on and off the floor.
Spurs’ defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions)
|Overall||100.7 (7)||109.7 (25)||102.7 (10)|
So the Spurs have been the sixth worst defensive team in the league (worse than both Phoenix and Golden State) since March 1. And Gregg Popovich will be the first to tell you that they’re not winning a championship playing that way.
A closer look at the Spurs’ defensive numbers shows that they’ve declined in every area, but that their biggest problem since March 1 has been defending shots inside the arc…
Spurs’ defensive numbers
DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds
TORatio = Opponents’ turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = Opponents’ FTA/FGA
Though the Spurs ranked seventh defensively through February, their defense was never all that consistent. Now, it’s just awful.
So over their last six games, fixing their defensive issues may be more important a task for the Spurs than holding onto that No. 1 spot in the West. Because they’ll never make it to a series against the Lakers if they keep defending the way they have since March 1st.