Why did the Spurs lose to a team with 50 percent of its top six players missing?
Tyson Chandler, the Hornets' dominant defensive player and shot blocker, did not contribute his nine rebounds and nine points per game; Hornets three-point specialist, Peja Stojakovic, did not score his 14 points, nor did he pull down his typical four rebounds a game; James Posey, the Hornets' sixth man, did not score his nine points a game nor add his four rebounds.
So, again, why did the Spurs lose? Here are my five reasons:
1) Defensive weakness: Spurs gave up too many second half critical points in the paint.
The Spurs contested most inside paint shots, yet this resulted in many fouls shots. Popovich stated, “The Hornets were more aggressive and wanted to win the game more.”
Chris Paul and the Hornets exploited the tiring Spurs in the second half because the Hornets believe the Spurs are “weak inside the paint,” and occasionally don't contest shots. Without the defensive presence of Gooden, the Spurs cannot stop the Hornets paint penetration.
When Gooden was in the game during the first half, the Spurs shut down the paint effectively, forcing outside shots—exactly what the Hornets forced the Spurs to do in the second half!
Pop took Gooden out of the game, replacing him with Udoka, Hill, and Thomas. These moves, offensively and defensively, weakened the Spurs, allowing Paul to penetrate at will.
2) The Hornets shut down the middle in the second half, not allowing the Spurs penetration in the paint.
From 8:15 to 4:01 remaining in the third quarter, the Spurs looked very tired; they began taking only long range jumpers without pushing the ball inside for higher probability shots.
The following is an actual shot-distance sequence during the 4:14 time frame:
Duncan 8’ (blocked)
Not one layup!
The Spurs looked exhausted, all due to taking long jumpers and failing to push the ball inside. The Spurs did not score the rest of the third quarter.
Why do the Spurs fall asleep so often during the third quarter? Is it harder for them to warm up after a rest at halftime? Maybe they need warm-up bicycles to flex their muscles, or large doses of Centrum gray vitamins.
3) “Old Man Syndrome”: Spurs score zero points in the final eight minutes of the third and fourth quarters
After chucking several shots from the cheap seats (see above), the Spurs took a total offensive nap.
For 4:45, the Spurs did not score a point, including the final four minutes of the third quarter. This resulted in only 16 points scored in the third quarter.
The Spurs repeated their OMS drought at the end of the game.
With 3:40 remaining in the game, the Spurs fell asleep again, going scoreless until 25 seconds were left.
Few teams will beat a strong playoff contender by going scoreless for that amount of time.
4) Hornets shot lights out at the free throw line, making 32 of 33.
Hometown NBA officiating gave the Hornets some crucial, game-changing foul shots.
This attests to the Hornets' overall aggressive penetrating the paint and drawing fouls. The Spurs shot well from the foul line, yet with a dozen fewer foul shots.
Chris Paul is now a superstar; he gets “phantom foul calls” no one sees but homecourt officials. Paul got six to eight foul shots on fouls I never saw. Maybe you saw them? I did not.
5) Poor player substitutions by Popovich hurt the Spurs defensively and offensively. Gooden should have played more minutes; Mason, much less!
Did anyone see Drew Gooden play last night? What did you think?
Gooden played solid defense and scored on four of five shots from the field. Gooden’s presence with Tim Duncan sealed off the paint, and prevented Chris Paul and the Hornets from inside penetration, yet only in the first half!
Mason played 22 minutes and never scored a point! Is Mason there for his defense?
Then why did Defensive All Star Bruce Bowen sit out the entire game?
Pop blew it on his two decisions: not enough minutes for Gooden, too many for Mason.
Udoka replaced Gooden and played 22 minutes, connecting on 1 of 6 from the field, and played no better defense than Gooden. Thomas, Hill, and Udoka went a combined 1 for 9 from the field yet played twice the minutes of Gooden.
Let's get more minutes for Gooden, more than the 19 minutes he played last night! This will increase his endurance and get him playoff ready!
As previous articles have stated, the Spurs will rise and fall on the performance of Gooden and Ginobli, who played smart and played hard last night. The Spurs played a strong first half and came out with an expected weak third quarter.
The Spurs fall flat a lot, particularly after a strong first half and against teams with winning records. This fact spoiled a strong first half from Gooden and his defensive presence inside.
At the end of the game, the Spurs ran out of gas, despite two heroic three-point shots in seven seconds to make the final score appear closer than it actually was.
All in all, a good effort spoiled with drowsy periods of OMS.
For the Spurs to reach the NBA Conference Finals, they must avoid playing New Orleans before confronting the LA Lakers. Expect the Spurs to extract revenge against New Orleans in the final game of the season.