AT&T CENTER – Heading into Tuesday’s contest against the Orlando Magic, the San Antonio Spurs were favored to win by 13.5 points. After 48 minutes of play, it was the Magic who came out not only victorious, but they were the ones with a double-digit win in their pocket, as they defeated the Spurs by 12 points.
For the Spurs, their mediocrity at home continues to be an early season issue for a team that is tied for their second best start in franchise history through 18 games with a record of 14-4. When asked after the game if he could pin-point what the issues are at home through eight games, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich had this response.
“No. If I knew, we wouldn’t lose. Seems logical.”
Popovich, Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili all gave credit to the Magic defensively after the game for playing physical and disrupting the Spurs’ offense. Defense, has been a staple for the Magic despite their 7-11 start to the season, as they’re ranked 6th in Defensive efficiency (101.3 Points Per 100 Possessions).
“I think energy could have been a little better at the beginning,” said Gasol after the game. “Then we fought back and we had pretty good intensity, but they were just disrupting our offense.”
Not having enough focus or energy at the beginning of games at home has been something that has already been said several times by different Spurs players through the eight games at home this season. But, it was Ginobili who mentioned the Spurs’ issues have mainly come on the offensive end when at home.
“Offensively is the problem, the ball is not moving, we are forcing the issue too much,” said Ginobili. “We are kind of stuck, so hopefully we get that ball moving better and sharper.”
The data backs up Ginobili’s observation, as the Spurs are actually performing slightly better defensively at home this season than on the road, where they’re an undefeated 10-0 to begin the season (a franchise record). But, as the chart below shows, the Spurs’ offense just falls off a cliff when games are played within the AT&T Center.
Here’s another way of analyzing those numbers. On the road, the Spurs are humming on offense better than the best offense in the league (Golden State Warriors, 114.6 PP/100). However, when San Antonio is at home, they’re performing just slightly better than the Memphis Grizzlies on offense (99.1 PP/100), who are ranked 26th in the league in offensive efficiency.
An eight game sample size still isn’t enough to find defining reasons why the Spurs are struggling so much on offense at home. Maybe it is because they’re not bringing the energy early, or focusing, or just missing shots that they’re making on the road. Or another way of looking at it is maybe they’re also struggling at home because some of the better defensive teams in the league have been visiting the AT&T Center more frequently within the first two months of the season.
Of the eight teams that the Spurs have faced at home, five of those teams (Utah Jazz 3rd, Los Angeles Clippers 2nd, Detroit Pistons 5th, Miami Heat 7th, Magic 6th) rank Top-10 in Defensive Efficiency. Against those five teams at home, San Antonio has an early record of 2-3.
So, one could argue that maybe the Spurs’ issues on offense have been exploited more clearly at home because they’re playing some of the better defensive teams in the league.
Then though, there’s this counter argument: The Spurs have also gone on the road and beaten some of the top defensive teams too such as the Jazz, Heat, Warriors (8th in Defense), and Charlotte Hornets (9th in Defense).
For a Spurs team that went 40-1 at home last season and wiped teams off the floor night after night, winning by 14.0 points per game, the mediocre 4-4 start at home is something that has put an early caution sign on a team that’s still on pace to win 63 games this season. The Spurs will fly to Dallas and face the Mavericks Wednesday, but after that game, more eyes could be on how the team plays Friday, when they host the Washington Wizards, whom they just beat last weekend on the road.