The San Antonio Spurs have been expectedly inconsistent all season, but they're showing promising growth spurts along the way.
Getting impressive wins over teams like Golden State, Utah, and LA in December, the Silver and Black have proved they're much more competitive this season, even if their record doesn't quite show it yet. Still, they have many more strides to make to show they're not going to go away easily when they're down.
After Saturday's disappointing loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Spurs are now winless in 17 games when trailing after the third quarter. San Antonio was down by four points heading into the final frame in Motor City and eventually forced an overtime period before losing on a seemingly impossible shot by Saddiq Bey.
Clearly, something isn't working for the Spurs when they fall behind entering the final 12 minutes, and it's something that's been plaguing the team all season long. Whether it be due to lack of inexperience, the lack of an established, go-to guy down the stretch, bad luck, or all of the above, the Spurs must find a way to get this monkey off their back as soon as possible.
In the last five minutes and overtime of Saturday's defeat, the Spurs missed three free throws that could've changed their fate, with one of them coming from 86% free throw shooter Derrick White.
How the San Antonio Spurs Can Fix Their Comeback Woes
Unfortunately, there isn't a steadfast answer for why the Spurs are 0-17 when down entering the fourth quarter. As such, there isn't a straight answer for how to remedy the situation either. Still, there are ways the Spurs can put themselves in a better situation to start reversing this trend.
Having Dejounte Murray back in the lineup will certainly help the Spurs in fourth quarters and overall, as he's been their most clutch performer all season long. Having him play for the majority of fourth quarters should keep San Antonio in games that are close, and they're bound to overcome a late deficit eventually.
Beyond that, San Antonio just simply needs to hit their free throws when they matter most. That might mean Jakob Poeltl and his 36% shooting may need to be benched with the game on the line, even if the Spurs' interior defense will greatly suffer as a result.
The biggest factor in the Spurs finally improving in situations like this is time. These Spurs aren't going to grow into contenders overnight, and we're going to see many more puzzling defeats and surprising wins over the course of the season as the young guys figure things out. Let's just hope this disturbing trend in particular ends pretty soon.