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News » What's wrong with the Spurs?

What's wrong with the Spurs?

What's wrong with the Spurs?
The lawns have begun to green up. Tree leaves have come out of hiding. In all corners around San Antonio, Little Dribblers have given way to Little Leaguers.

Spring has officially sprung, although someone has apparently failed to inform the city's NBA team.

For the Spurs, the month of March is usually just that. A march toward the postseason - regimented, orderly and predictable.

This year, however, the Spurs' March became a headlong stumble into April, a calendar-page of frustration that has put a serious crimp in their annual postseason preparations.

"We usually have a crisis in January or February or December," guard Manu Ginobili said. "This year, it's a different mind-set. We're trying to fix problems, rather than just work on details."

No team in the league can be happier than the Spurs for the coming of April.

A frustrating March came to a head Tuesday, with a 96-95 loss at home to Oklahoma City. It was the Spurs' second loss to the bottom-feeding Thunder in a span of 15 days.

With it, the Spurs closed the month 9-8, their worst March record since 1996-97, and significantly off the .753 winning percentage they posted over the 11 Marches prior.

Adding to the aggravation - six of their losses during the month came by five points or less.

The Spurs have already pocketed a playoff berth, but are in danger of squandering home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

With eight games left with which to gather momentum in the regular season, the Spurs are now forced to press fast-forward on their normal springtime routine - and hope for the best.

"Every team has a number of things they want to improve," coach Gregg Popovich said. "No team is perfect, or they'd be undefeated. We're no different than anyone else in that regard.

"But, we're picking a bad time to be spotty," Popovich acknowledged.

The Spurs' 3-point shooting, normally a strength, has gone erratic. Over the past two games, both losses, they have made just 15 of 54 long balls.

The Spurs' offense seems out of sync, prone to interminable scoring droughts.

Their defense, though much improved since the All-Star break, has broken down at key intervals.

"We're trying to find our place, our rhythm," said Tony Parker in a startling admission this late in the season.

Meanwhile, Popovich continues to play mad scientist with his rotation at a later stage than he ever has. It is a delay at least partially necessitated by the late arrival of free-agent forward Drew Gooden and Ginobili's recent return from injury, and partially due to Popovich's ongoing search for a reliable backup to Parker at the point.

All of the above has contributed to the late arrival of spring in San Antonio.

"We're in a bad spot right now," said Roger Mason Jr., one of a handful of 3-point shooters in search of his missing stroke.

"Nobody's going to pull us out of it. There's no secret agent coming to help us. It's got to come from within."

After the Spurs' latest loss to the Thunder, captain Tim Duncan spoke of a need for each player to take "personal responsibility." Popovich echoed that sentiment.

"We have a couple people who need to play better," he said.

Ginobili disagreed.

"I think it's a little more than a couple," Ginobili said. "A couple is not going to be enough."

The Spurs know what is broken. They have eight games left to fix it. Time is not on their side.

"We can't panic," Parker said. "We're still OK. But we have to realize it's not normal to lose these games. We have to play better."

March of misery

Three contributors to the Spurs' recent struggles:

Long-distance block

The Spurs, led by Roger Mason Jr. (right), are the most accurate 3-point team in the Western Conference, but you wouldn't know it lately. Over the last two games, the Spurs have made just 15 of 54 from beyond the arc. They are probably taking too many 3-pointers. They are definitely making too few.

Tinker, toy

Typically by now, Gregg Popovich's playoff rotation is set in cement. This season, however, he's still tinkering and has often chosen to experiment with lineups he has rarely used all season. The Spurs' inconsistency could be a side effect of unfamiliarity.

Defensive drop-off

Statistically, the Spurs have been one of the NBA's best defensive teams since the All-Star break. But in a couple of crucial games, they've had ill-timed defensive breakdowns lead to defeat. The latest came Tuesday against Oklahoma City, when a blown rotation led to a key Nenad Krstic jumper in the final minute.

-- Jeff McDonald

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 3, 2009


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