3 charts explain why the Spurs are struggling

Defense, 3-point discrepancy among glaring issues for San Antonio

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts near the end of an NBA game against the Dallas Mavericks, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts near the end of an NBA game against the Dallas Mavericks, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez) (AP Photo)

SAN ANTONIO – The Spurs are off to a dismal 7-14 start. While the season is not yet completely lost, we can start to see patterns as to what’s been some of the biggest issues for this team: defense, turnovers and the Spurs’ discrepancy in 3-pointers made and attempted.

Let’s start with the 3-pointers. In the Spurs three recent losses to the Lakers, Timberwolves and Pistons, San Antonio was outscored heavily from 3-point range.

The Lakers (14), Wolves (18), and Pistons (15) combined to make 47 3-pointers against San Antonio while the Spurs made 22 over those three games.

That is a 141-66 point differential on three-pointers! The only game in which San Antonio outscored an opponent from distance was their most recent win against the Clippers.

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This stat has plagued San Antonio all season. We broke down the league-wide 3-point numbers and it’s a glaring issue.

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The Spurs roster, which is made up of high-volume 2-point shooters, doesn’t necessarily suggest improvement is on its way — barring a Marco Belinelli renaissance or a trade.

So, how can San Antonio make up for the large gap in 3-point shooting? With defense, but that’s been a major problem as well.

The Spurs defensive rating is one of the worst in the league. For a franchise that made its living for decades on the defensive end, it’s been a disappointment.

According to Basketball Reference, a website that tracks detailed statistics for the NBA, the Spurs are allowing 114.1 points per game per every 100 opponent possessions. The only teams with worse defensive ratings as of Monday are Washington, Atlanta and Charlotte. Here’s the league-wide breakdown.

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You see a team like Denver that has made the LEAST amount of 3s in the league this season (177) is still having a successful campaign because they are first in defensive rating. As the saying goes, defense still wins championships and the Nuggets are in the mix.

Staying on the defensive end, another key stat hurting San Antonio is turnovers forced — the Spurs rank dead last, according to Basketball Reference.

San Antonio is forcing only 12.8 turnovers per game, which, for a team that needs more possessions to offset 3-pointers allowed, is a problem.

The Bulls and the Lakers top the league in forcing owith 18.5 and 17, respectively.

Much of this comes down to personnel. The Spurs are finally feeling the true effects of losing players such as Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson and Davis Bertans on the offensive end.

Head coach Gregg Popovich has tweaked the lineup to address some of these issues. Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl have been inserted into the starting lineup. That has helped some. Maybe Lonnie Walker becomes more of a factor on the offensive end.

Until that happens, the numbers don’t lie and the Spurs must dig themselves out of the bottom of the standings.

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