Over their last nine games, the San Antonio Spurs are 4-5 and they haven’t won consecutive games since December 28, 2017. On the surface, the Spurs’ defense seems to be doing its job during this stretch of nine games, as they’re holding teams to 99.2 points per 100 possessions, which ranks second best defensively.
However, when it comes to the offensive end of the floor, during their last nine games, the Spurs are struggling even more than their usual 13th ranked offense which scores 105 PP/100. Over the last nine games, the Spurs are scoring just 102.6 PP/100, which ranks 26th during that stretch.
Overall, when it comes to getting shots to go into the basket, the Spurs have their issues in that department, as they’re ranked 21st in eFG%, making just 51.2% of their shots for the season. eFG% is a metric that adjusts for the value a 3-point field goal relative to a 2-point field goal. Over their last nine games, the Spurs are making just 50.3% of their eFGs, which ranks them 25th during that stretch of games.
Since the Spurs play at a slower pace, don’t hoist many 3-pointers and don’t get to the free throw line in the top-10 range of those categories, they rely on their offensive rebounding to get extra offensive possessions on their misses. For the season, the Spurs rank 10th in offensive rebounding percentage, as they grab 23.1% of their missed shots. But, in the last nine games, the Spurs’ offensive rebounding percentage has dropped to 20.4%, which ranks them 24th in that category.
When offensive rebounding is no longer a strength along with the other limitations of the offense (not enough 3s or free throws), the Spurs have to really make sure they’re sound defensively and they need to make the most of the shots that they are taking from the floor.
Unfortunately, with the current state of their player’s health situation, it’s been difficult for San Antonio to string together wins. When Kawhi Leonard is out, defenses know they need to either double team LaMarcus Aldridge or force him to catch the ball as far away from the rim as possible. This forces Aldridge to either kick the ball out of his hands or to take a contested turnaround shot in the non-restricted area or further.
Friday will mark three weeks since Rudy Gay was initially diagnosed with a right heel injury. While Gay comes off the bench, he was still a player San Antonio was relying on, since he has the third highest usage on the team and he’s the team’s third leading scorer.
With Leonard, the Spurs are 3-1 in their last four games when he plays. However, since it appears the Spurs are keeping him on the ‘you must have two days off’ injury management plan, the question becomes, who will be Aldridge’s sidekicks for that games that Leonard doesn’t play in?
As you’ll see from the eFG% table below, in their last 5 losses, several Spurs role players are having difficulty providing help to Aldridge in those games where the Spurs have fallen in the last nine games. Keep in mind the league average for eFG% is 52%. Tony Parker and Leonard are withheld from this inquiry because Parker has only been present for 2 losses and Leonard 1 loss in the last 9 games.
|Player||eFG% in wins||eFG% in losses (-% below league average)|
|Davis Bertans||81%||43% (-9%)|
|LaMarcus Aldridge||55%||50% (-2%)|
|Patty Mills||44%||41% (-11%)|
|Pau Gasol||42%||39% (-13%)|
|Dejounte Murray||36%||40% (-12%)|
Focusing in on those five players whose eFG% drops below league average in losses over the last nine games, I was interested in seeing exactly where they were struggling from on the floor. So, I looked at the top-3 areas of the floor where each player is shooting from in the last five losses and checked to see if it’s above or below their season average and percentage from that specific location. Here were the results:
|Area of floor||Above the Break 3PT||Non-Restricted Area||Mid-Range|
|Last 5 losses||3.2 FGA, 44% FG||1 FGA, 20% FG||1.4 FGA, 40% FG|
|Season||2.9 FGA, 42% FG||0.5 FGA, 47% FG||0.4 FGA, 33% FG|
|Area of floor||Restricted Area||Mid-Range||Non-Restricted Area|
|Last 5 losses||7 FGA, 69% FG||6.6 FGA, 36% FG||3.8 FGA, 32% FG|
|Season||5.4 FGA, 71% FG||7.3 FGA, 40% FG||3.4 FGA, 44% FG|
As mentioned above, with Leonard off the floor, defenses can ‘dig’ on Aldridge’s post-up shots and make his scoring area congested. Because of this, to get a look, Aldridge is having to rely more often on his over the shoulder shot from about 8-17 feet out. You can see how in losses; his mid-range and NRA shots aren’t falling near the rate of his season average.
|Area of floor||Above the Break 3PT||Mid-Range||Corner 3||Restricted Area|
|Last 5 losses||3.8 FGA, 16% FG||2.4 FGA, 25% FG||0.6 FGA, 100% FG||0.6 FGA, 67% FG|
|Season||3.8 FGA, 35% FG||1.8 FGA, 39% FG||0.6 FGA, 59% FG||1.1 FGA, 54% FG|
Over the last five losses, Mills hasn’t received many spot-up threes. Most of his attempts from deep are having to come off screen action, off the dribble after a pick, or on a pull-up. Mills is currently in a shooting slump and when Leonard doesn’t play, the Spurs need his shooting ability to keep the defense from double teaming Aldridge or collapsing the paint.
Just how much do the Spurs need Mills to shoot over 40% from the field in a given game? When he shoots 40% or below in a game this season, the Spurs have lost 81% of their games (13 of 16 losses).
|Area of floor||Restricted Area||Mid-Range||Non-Restricted Area|
|Last 5 losses||3.6 FGA, 61% FG||1.8 FGA, 11% FG||1.8 FGA, 22% FG|
|Season||2.3 FGA, 67% FG||2.2 FGA, 36% FG||2 FGA, 36% FG|
When Gasol isn’t out at the 3-point arc to space the floor, he’s usually hovering around the mid-range area or he tries to make himself a post-up option. In the Spurs’ last five losses, his mid-range shot and post-up shots have abandoned him, which allows the centers that guard him to double team Aldridge more often.
|Area of floor||Restricted Area||Non-Restricted Area||Mid-Range|
|Last 5 losses||3.8 FGA, 53% FG||2 FGA, 40% FG||0.6 FGA, 0% FG|
|Season||3 FGA, 52% FG||1.3 FGA, 36% FG||1.7 FGA, 32% FG|
Something to remember after reading and analyzing the data above, is that it’s still just a nine-game sample size. But, there is a slow trend starting to take place where the Spurs are more susceptible to losses when Leonard isn’t playing. This regardless if the team is below or above .500. Location is also key. All five of the Spurs’ last five losses have come on the road. For the Spurs, each night without Leonard comes down to who is going to step up in the scoring department alongside Aldridge?