Last night featured an abysmal performance by our San Antonio Spurs. I watched the entire game in disbelief. I kept thinking, "There is no way the Spurs will play this poorly for 48 minutes;" but obviously, they did. There were many stats that I could have highlighted that would have helped to explain just what happened, but none were so impactful as the 7 three pointers that Utah took. 6 of those came when the game was already decided. They only connected on one of their attempts, but the fact that they only took 7 threes implies that the Spurs gave up easy, high-percentage shots to Utah all night long.
If you watched last night, you must have noticed that Utah's game plan was to attack the Spurs in the paint. (And if you did not watch, lucky you.) Sloan had his offensive players relentlessly attacking the paint and the Spurs' defenders were consistently baffled. What troubled me was the complete lack of a Spurs response.
The Spurs guards could not stay in front of anyone. Utah employed their Princeton style offense with a plethora of backscreens and ball picks to be sure this was the case. However, I would argue that the weak spot of our defense was not our guards, but our big men. With the hand checking rule, it's nearly impossible to stop a quick player; just ask Tony Parker, he has made a living off of it. But when an opponent gets a step past his defender, it is up to the big men to cut off the gap and not allow the offensive player to penetrate. This rarely happened, and when it did, the defensive rotation behind the scheme was late resulting in easy dump-offs for the Utah guards.
We all know Bonner is an atrocious defender; we know that going in. If Bonner is not making his threes, he really hampers the starting five. That's fine. We lived with it all of last season. It does not mean we like it, but we are accustomed to it. My concern resides with Antonio McDyess. He was hyped by the media as a great defender. Last night he played like Bonner on the defensive end. He offered no help defense, and was routinely scored on at will by Mehmet Okur. Memhet Okur! As in, Greg Ostertag's ugly little brother. We need McDyess to be a stopper. We need him to clog the paint. If he does not perform better, the Spurs will be in for a long season. I guarantee Sloan's strategy of attacking the Spurs in the paint will be mimicked in the coming weeks. The Spurs need to find an answer fast.
One last thing, so the Jazz are killing the Spurs underneath and Pop's response is to start the fourth small? He had RJ playing PF and Blair at center. Shockingly, that did not work at all and the Spurs never came back. Someone needs to explain the logic. If you are getting killed in the paint, why not throw Ratliff in there with Duncan, and play Bonner or McDyess at the 3 with RJ at the 2? Pop did the complete opposite of what seemed logical to me.
I realize this was just one game and only our fourth game of the season, but this game seemed more than a simple 'bad loss' for the Spurs. Utah found a huge weakness and exploited it for 48 minutes and the Spurs never came up with a response. Maybe McDyess just needs time to get acclimated to our defensive rotations. Maybe Ratliff needs minutes. Maybe Bonner needs to injure himself, (just kidding, kind of.) I'm not setting the alarm bells off, but I will say these next six games will be very telling as to what kind of team the Spurs possess. @ Blazers, Raptors, Dallas, OKC, @ Dallas, and Utah again. Five of the next six will be extremely challenging. Let's hope Pop can sort this out sooner rather than later. In Pop we trust, for now.