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The Spurs’ refusal to embrace the three-pointer is finally hurting them

Unlike last season, the Spurs have nothing to disguise their midrange-heavy offense with.

San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

As mentioned in a recent article, ESPN’s Zach Lower is one of the Spurs staunchest defenders in the national media and big believer in the old saying, “Never count out the Pop and the Spurs”. However, in his latest signature Ten NBA things I like and don’t like article, he went off on the Spurs’ shot selection, and probably in a way many fans agree with.

The Spurs survived with a similar “high midrange, low-three-point attempt” offense last season basically by making what few threes they took, but they can no longer conceal the fallacies of this concept now that the threes have stopped falling (they have dropped from 1st to 21st in 3P% in the league this season), and a lot of that lands on their stars’ shoulders.

On maybe a half-dozen possessions per game, LaMarcus Aldridge picks-and-pops toward the top of the arc or the corner. One more step and he is in 3-point range. Yes, Aldridge is more comfortable inside the arc. That comfort might impact his accuracy. But there is no way his shooting percentage from 12 inches inside the arc is so much higher than his mark from one inch behind as to justify forfeiting that extra point.

He does the same thing with trail 3-pointers -- a shot every star big man strolls into several times per game.

There is no basketball reason for this. You are not showing anyone. You are not proving old ways work better. You are just passing up one shot for a worse one.

On some of these possessions, the Spurs still end up with a good shot. That can happen when five talented players have 15 seconds to cut and pass and drive. The old-man-yelling-at-cloud crew highlights those plays.

That same crew ignores the possessions that sputter — when DeMar DeRozan catches the ball behind the arc, no defender within 15 feet, dribbles into a brick wall and bonks an 18-foot fadeaway.

Obviously hitting three-pointers isn’t the only way to win, but consistently turning them down for worse shots isn’t the answer either. Unlike last season, these Spurs have nothing to fall back on to hide their flaws, not even defense.

For good measure, Lowe throws in one more “horrifying stat” that most fans are probably aware of by now, before adding in the one thing the Spurs have going in their favor right now that is only possible thanks to a rare phenomenon known as a weak Western Conference.

By the way: Opponents have blitzed the Spurs by eight points per 100 possessions with DeRozan and Aldridge on the floor. That is a horror show. It’s not entirely new; the Spurs were merely neutral in such minutes last season.

The 11-16 Spurs have a run in them. They always do. They are only one game out of the playoffs. But they are searching more than ever.