With every passing day, the San Antonio Spurs continue to prove that maybe Tim Duncan should have stuck around for a few more seasons. The Spurs clearly miss his presence, and his retirement hasn’t really helped their NBA Championship hopes.
Their 101-99 loss to the Houston Rockets came as quite the shock, primarily because of how close the Spurs came to victory. Fans could clearly see that things had changed for the Spurs since the Offseason.
San Antonio’s defense was always something to behold primarily because of the efforts of Tim Duncan, who knew how to keep them all nice and tight, and more than ready to contend against any offense. There is a reason they finished Number 1 in defensive rating just last season.
And as would be expected, their situation has taken a turn for the worse since then. Truth be told, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol (and even David Lee) are all fine players, but they are doing a poor job of filling the vacancy left by Duncan.
The fact that the Spurs were 11th in Defense when they entered the Rockets game on Wednesday was ridiculous. It proved that San Antonio fans were right to panic about Duncan’s retirement.
This is a team that hasn’t fallen out of the Top 10 in defense since Duncan’s rookie year (not counting the 2010-20011 season). Popovich has tried to keep fans calm, discouraging them from panicking but that message will be a hard sell after Wednesday.
At the very least, they have a good reason to worry. The Rockets were a handful for the Spurs, revealing all the deficiencies in their defense. James Harden was a particular challenge, proving why he was such a powerful MVP contender.
He has proven adept at finishing at the rim, getting to the line and finding teammates for wide-open looks.
The final possession decided the game for the Spurs, seeing Kawhi Leonard and Aldridge fail to deliver when it really mattered. Everything about the Spurs’ defense requires close analysis, especially after the Rockets game. They gave up too many easy looks in transition against their opponents, and miscommunication is probably to blame for some of the mistakes.
Players like Aldridge really need to step up. There are simply too many responsibilities on his shoulders for him to start floundering now. Leonard and Duncan’s efforts in previous seasons somehow compensated for Aldridge’s weaknesses, allowing his deficiencies to go unnoticed.
However, with Duncan’s absence, Aldridge’s problems are becoming increasingly clear. His reactions during the game exposed San Antonio, especially whenever he came up against Harden. Aldridge just couldn’t get a handle on Harden who he didn’t even look like he was keen to face, this despite the fact that circumstances kept throwing them together.
Aldridge isn’t a terrible defender. The Spurs just need to find a way to make better use of him. As things stand, they are allowing his skills to go to waste even while letting his weaknesses show.
Everyone has begun to look to Dewayne Dedmon to pick up the slack. But the youngster still has a lot to prove before he can be trusted with more responsibilities.