By now it’s no secret that the San Antonio Spurs are struggling to keep their hold of the 10th seed in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Silver and Black are coming off a two-game stint against the conference-leading Utah Jazz in which they were outscored by a total of 43 points. They then followed that up with a much-needed victory against the Sacramento Kings followed by a 22-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. These are tough times in the Alamo City.
To add to some of the recent misery, San Antonio lost on a tip-in at the buzzer in overtime against the Philadelphia 76ers before their series against the Jazz. And right before that loss was a gut-wrenching defeat to the Boston Celtics where the Spurs led by as many 32 points and featured Jayson Tatum’s 60-point explosion.
This is the worst time to have these types of meltdowns, with the regular season coming to an end soon. It hasn’t helped that the team chasing the Spurs at the moment are the New Orleans Pelicans, who are considered to be one of the NBA’s teams of the future but will have to finish the season without their best player.
Zion Williamson, who has been an unstoppable freight train all season, will be out indefinitely with a fractured finger. The injury to Zion clearly benefits the Spurs, who are trying to keep their hold on the number 10 spot in the Western Conference's play-in tournament.
Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than luck for the Spurs to keep their play-in hopes alive. The Pelicans beat the Charlotte Hornets 112-110 on Sunday to move back within 1.5 games of the Spurs.
The Spurs own the season tiebreaker against the Pelicans, but San Antonio is going to need to clean up their on-court performance to maintain the lead against a team that might use the injury to their star player as a reason to rally and finish the season off strong.
What do the San Antonio Spurs need to improve?
The biggest area of improvement for the Spurs? Defense. Defense. And oh, defense.
On the season, the Spurs rank 13th in defensive efficiency. Not great. Not bad either. In the last seven games (six of which they’ve lost) the Spurs’ defensive rating has sunk to 26th, which is very bad.
The biggest defensive issue seems to come with the Spurs defending against bigger teams. Like fellow site writer Roberto Araiza wrote, the Spurs struggle to defend teams with skilled forwards and athletic bigs. Unfortunately, rosters are set, so San Antonio will need a better effort from their current players and maybe a new wrinkle in the defensive scheme.
The second area of concern for San Antonio is outside shooting. It’s no secret to anyone who watches this team that they arent a prolific 3-point shooting team. They rank 23rd in 3-point percentage, connecting on 35 percent of their attempts from behind the arc.
However, in the last seven games, they’ve cratered to 31 percent on their triple attempts. Poor defense and awful shooting are not the recipe for a convincing stretch run.
Nevertheless, despite the struggles, it seems there are external forces working in the Spurs’ favor. Now they need to take care of business on the court in order to keep their postseason hopes alive.