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?