In their past three games, the San Antonio Spurs have allowed opponents to shoot 49.6% against lowly teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, and Cleveland Cavaliers.
None of those teams will be postseason bound (including the Mavericks who are trailing by four games behind the eighth seed). These are opponents the Spurs should be handling easily with their depth and versatility on both ends of the floor.
No one can explain why the team is struggling on defense, including their cornerstone player in Tim Duncan.
"It's not been great and I don't know why", said Duncan after the team's narrow win over Cleveland. "The effort is there, I think we're playing hard. I think we're just giving up too many straight drives to the rim. We have to find a way to counter that and a way to clean that up."
With the exception of Tony Parker, the team is relatively healthy.
Cory Joseph has filled in nicely to manage the game in Parker's absence and the team still has an abundance of point guards on the bench backing the D-League All-Star up. Without Parker, the Spurs still have to work harder on both ends of the floor. One of Parker's biggest strengths this season is that he's commanding the attention from every defensive player on the floor and getting his teammates involved. While Joseph is doing a great job with the starting unit, Duncan knows there's something missing.
"It will help when we get Tony (Parker) back a little bit, said Duncan. "Bottom line is we have to have a little more focus and dedication of taking responsibility to clean that up."
It's no secret you can't make up what an MVP candidate such as Parker brings to the table. His speed, basketball smarts, and knowledge of his teammates makes the game easier for them.
While the Spurs tend to help Parker out on defense against the top tier point guards in the NBA and putting either Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green on his man to save his legs for the later minutes in the game, TP does the same for his teammates on offense.
His 21ppg and 7.6apg come with him taking the burden of the offense on his shoulders and also getting his teammates easy shots when the defense dedicate their schemes to him. Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and especially Duncan are doing well on the offensive end in Parker's absence, but they have to work hard for those points then must go back and defend their opponents.
Don't be surprised if the Spurs clamp down on the defensive end again when Parker returns because of what he does in the game that doesn't show up in box scores.