The Spurs 108-100 loss to the Hawks in Atlanta felt much too familiar for comfort. Despite entering the game as the favorite and playing against a team that was missing its 2nd best player, they let what should have been a straight-forward win turn into their first losing streak of the season.
The game was eerily reminiscent of last season’s road struggles, as the Spurs managed to win just 16 games away from the AT&T Center, while dropping 25 and sporting a net rating of -3.6. That team fell apart on the defensive end whenever they left San Antonio, allowing 114.3 points per 100 possessions, an issue that reared its ugly head in the 4th quarter of this game.
Giving up a 38-point final frame, including 16 to just one player, is a tough look. There were any number of defensive breakdowns to point out, including each of the first three defensive possessions of the quarter. The first was just a simple case of hand down, man down.
The 2nd was yet another instance of failing to match up in transition.
All five Spurs are over half court before any of the Hawks, and yet De’Andre Hunter runs right in front of both Rudy Gay and Jakob Poeltl on his way to the corner, and they both just watch.
And the 3rd, a schematic breakdown, was Jakob dropping on a pick and roll with Trae Young handling the ball and Dejounte Murray in foul trouble. They even got a preview of exactly how that would go when Dejounte got called for his 5th (ticky-tack) foul just prior to Young launching mere moments before hand.
If you give Young 8 feet of space, you deserve what you get.
Watching those three plays, or any of Marco Belinelli’s playing time, it could be very tempting to assume this is a rerun of last year’s team, especially as their defense is still visibly struggling to stay connected for longer than a few minutes at a time.
But that just doesn’t quite add up. Even with their 4th quarter explosion, the Hawks only managed to score 105.9 points per 100 possessions. That’s actually a little bit better than the Spurs’ defense has performed overall this season as they’ve allowed 106.5 points per 100 so far. Should the John Collins-less Hawks have been able to score that much? No, certainly not. The Spurs’ defense had too many extended stretches of poor execution and gave up far too many easy buckets. Still, it shouldn’t have mattered.
The Spurs took 16 wide open threes last night and made just 1. That’s 6.3%, in case you’re curious. Sadly, their 8 of 33 performance from deep wasn’t even their worst of the young season. That came in Sunday night’s 6 of 25 against the Lakers in which they hit just 1 of 7 wide open looks from downtown. If you’re sensing a trend here, you’re on the right track.
The Spurs are currently 27th in the league in three-point accuracy at just 31.1%, per Cleaning the Glass, after leading the league at 40.1% last season. That 9% drop is almost entirely because they are shooting worse than any other team on the best possible looks. Through 7 games, the Spurs have made just 26.6% of their wide open three point attempts.
Individually, Marco and Rudy are having the roughest starts to the year, although Bryn Forbes is underperforming as well. On wide open looks, Rudy is now 0 of 12 after hitting almost 44% last year, Marco is 1 of 10 after making 38.5% last year and Bryn is 5 of 15, despite drilling nearly 46% last year. A little regression would go a long way.
Here’s a collection of their bricked open catch and shoot threes from last night’s game. Enjoy.
The recipe for last year’s 5th ranked offense was taking care of the ball and shooting the lights out. Losing Davis Bertans — who has hit 71.4% of his wide open threes so far this year, by the way — obviously didn’t help, but this isn’t that complicated of a problem” the Spurs are missing open threes. The good news is it’s something should eventually sort itself out as they start making those shots, but until then, they aren’t going to win many games, no matter who the opponent is.