Behind the Spurs’ Improved eFG% Defense

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Over the San Antonio Spurs’ first 62 games, they ranked 23 in defensive rating, with opponents scoring 112.1 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/stats. Over the past 10 games, the Spurs have ranked 3rd in defensive rating, with opponent’s scoring 104.2 points per 100 possessions.

What caused the difference? Their rankings in most of the defensive four factors have remained similar. They were 29th in opponent’s turnover percentage before February 27th and 26th starting then, 6th in offensive rebound percentage before and after February 27th, and 3rd in free throw rate before February 27th and 1st in the league starting then.

They improved their rank compared to the rest of the league in one of the defensive four factors before and after their 9 game winning streak. They were 26th in the league in opponent’s effective field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot a 53.5% effective field goal percentage before their win streak.

Since the start of their win streak, they have ranked 4th in the league, holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 49.9%.

Spurs’ opponents are shooting 2 percent more of their shots from 3 point range since the streak started and shooting them 1.6% worse. Spurs’ opponents are shooting 4.8% worse on 2 point field goal attempts since the beginning of the streak.

Looking at two-point range, since the Spurs have seen the largest improvement in that area, as Spurs’ opponents are shooting 6.5% worse from the restricted area, 2.1% worse from the non-restricted area paint, and 7.6% worse from mid-range since the streak started.

Spurs’ opponents’ shooting has varied wildly from both corners, they are shooting better in the left corner, but 8% and worse in the right corner by 16.7%. They are making above the break threes 0.8% less after the streak.

While LaMarcus Aldridge’s defensive rating has been better since the streak has started, it is a small improvement compared to the Spurs’ overall defensive improvement, only 1.8 points per 100 possessions better. DeMar DeRozan’s defensive rating has improved by 5.4, Bryn Forbes defensive rating has improved by 5.0, and Derrick White’s defensive rating has actually gotten 1.6 points per 100 possessions worse.

While most players have improved, one player has made an especially significant improvement – since the start of the streak, Jakob Poeltl’s defensive rating is down from 107.2 to 93.7, a 13.5 points per 100 possession improvement.

The Spurs have defended the paint much better since the start of the streak, and Poeltl seems to be a large reason why. If he can continue his play, he will be a valuable piece to the Spurs playoff rotation and another addition to a young Spurs core that is strong defensively that currently includes White and Dejounte Murray.

All stats from NBA.com/stats.

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