The San Antonio Spurs have lost five games this season by a margin of 25 points or more. They’ve only played 14 games. After sticking around in the first half, the Spurs were blown out in the second, losing their ninth straight game to the Los Angeles Clippers 124-99.
The Spurs were a nightmare defensively, allowing the Clippers to shoot 47.4% from the field, and get to the line 25 times where they made 22 free throws. They were outscored in the paint 54-46, and gave up 10 offensive rebounds to Los Angeles.
The Spurs weren’t much better offensively, as they shot 43.8% from the field. They insisted on shooting a barrage of threes, but hit just 10 of their 37 attempts (27%.) They turned the ball over 17 times, including some key giveaways when they were surging in the third quarter.
Despite what felt like a bleak game, Gregg Popovich had only praise for his team in the post-game presser.
“Nobody likes to lose,” Popovich told reporters. “But I thought their competitiveness and execution were good against a very good, very talented, very well-coached team... I like a lot of the things that I saw, individually and as a team.”
Judging by the aura of Spurs Twitter on Monday night, it’s safe to say they don’t agree. It can be frustrating to watch this team play poorly night after night. But there is no way Pop is going to get on the podium and speak discouragingly about this young team. He’s defending them right now, but how long can that last? 10 games? 15? 20? It’s hard to find the light at the end of this losing tunnel.
There has to be some drastic changes in the Spurs level of play to snap this losing streak. The defense must get better, and they have to figure out how to play four quarters of consistent offense to get back in the winning column.
- The Spurs defense is bad right now. Don’t get me wrong, the Clippers are a good offensive team with a lot of weapons. San Antonio is not doing themselves any favors with their execution on that end. The Spurs are undisciplined as a defensive unit. They over-commit on a lot of their defensive rotations. Sending two men to the ball or helping way off good shooters on drives, allowing easy kick outs for threes. Of course they also give up a lot of easy drives because they are bad at containing ball-handlers. To make matter worse, most players absolutely die on a screen. Jeremy Sochan in particular was bad at navigating screens, allowing easy bucket after easy bucket when involved in screens on and off the ball. Victor Wembanyama and Sochan jumped on almost every ball fake against the Clippers. These are young players making mistakes that lead to one of the worst defensive ratings in the NBA.
- Wembanyama was particularly frustrating against Los Angeles. He had 9 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks on 4-12 shooting from the field. Wemby is forcing a lot of jump shots from the mid-range and three. There were a few particularly frustrating attempts where it looked like he was shooting the ball simply because it swung to him on that particular possession. He’s shooting 42.9% from the field and 28.4% from three this season. He, or the Spurs have to find ways to get Wembanyama the ball closer to the basket, or in advantageous positions. He’s simply too much of an offensive weapon to have him chucking inefficient jumpers all game.
- Keldon Johnson scored 22 points, albeit some of them coming in the fourth quarter when the game was basically over. He has been one of the few Spurs to consistently attack the basket and put pressure on the rim. The three-point shot is improving as he’s shooting 37.3% from three this season. Defensively he has not been much better than years past. However, it’s nice to have one guy who can get to the rim, it would be nice to see his aggressiveness rub off on some of his teammates.
- Cedi Osman has been a shot in the arm for the Spurs all season. He was the best player on the Spurs in Monday’s contest. His combination of aggressiveness on the secondary break, cutting instincts and shooting ability make him the perfect Spurs role player. More minutes with him alongside Tre Jones and Wembanyama would be welcomed.