Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Spurs last night 96-95, winning their first road game against a team with a winning record this year. Thunder has the fifth fewest NBA wins this season; but 10 percent of their wins include two victories in three weeks against the Spurs.
Why did the Spurs lose these games?
The Spurs have lost nine of their last 18 games and remain mired in losing mediocrity. What will it take to jump start Spurs on the road to victory? I have suggestions.
Warning: If you are a Spurs fan, you will not like them anymore than previous articles which predicted their current run of losses!
1) Some Spurs and Coach Popovich have lost the Will to Win!!!
Players are not playing as a team but pointing fingers in game huddles. I am tired of Popovich and Duncan shrugging their shoulders with generic responses like “it’s just a game” and “we are struggling now.”
These responses declare Spurs do not know why they lost and will repeat losses! Think defense. Think poor coaching. Not worn-out excuses!
The next time Pop or Duncan offer apathetic responses, I wish a reporter would yell “WAKE UP! DO YOU WANT TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP OR NOT? Then play like you want to win again!”
Spurs are one game away from losing first round home court playoff advantage. Only injured Ginobli expresses fire in the belly determination to win. Ginobli and Parker are the heart and soul of the Spurs. Duncan is the muscle.
2) Bench Duncan Earlier & More Often - Think a new “Twin Houses Defense”
Keep two of these three players on the court at all times and rotate them on a performance basis: Thomas, Duncan, and Gooden. Spurs are soft in the gut and allow too many late game layups and short jumpers down the lane, like recent Hornets and Thunder losses. Duncan is getting worn down too early.
Expect Gooden to foul out! So what? Gooden and Thomas will relieve pressure on Duncan with their defensive presence.
Opponents score too many points in the paint. Thunder broke the Spurs with a 10-0 late run. The Spurs won championships on defense – it’s not there now. Beefing up the lane is a start and pulling guards inside the three point line will tighten the inside defense.
3) Better Player Coaching
Last night the Thunder won their first road game against a playoff team this season! Why? Poor Spurs coaching.
Tim Duncan played an excellent game for 36 minutes and hit 9-of-12 shots from the floor, but missed 4-of-7 shots from the free throw line, an old Spurs nemesis. This is Duncan foul shooting when he was exhausted. Why? Poor coaching!
Gooden and Thomas played well! Thomas hit 1-of-1 from the field and got three rebounds in seven minutes. Gooden had four points and two rebounds in nine minutes. They had 25 percent of Spurs offensive rebounds in 16 minutes combined time! Are these reasons to sit them out the rest of the game running Duncan’s bad knees into the ground with 36 minutes? Hey Coach: I’m talking to you!
4) Better Team Coaching for Second Half OMS – Old Man Syndrome
The Spurs have five regular players over 30 years old and have scoring droughts regularly in the second half. Every team knows about the Spurs OMS use it to beat them. How? They simply drive down the lane like the Hornets and Thunder.
From 10:17 to 5:37 remaining in the game, the Thunder scored six points off layups, and 10 total points before Popovich called a timeout – after four minutes and 17 seconds without a Spurs point!
The drought lasted four minutes and 40 seconds without a single Spurs point.
Duncan was on the bench the first six minutes in the fourth quarter during the Thunder's 10-0 run that won the game! Gooden should have been on the floor with Thomas for defense preventing the six points off Thunder layups!
Pop should have rested Duncan much earlier in the game instead of playing him 30 of the first 36 minutes!
Pop's coaching lost the Spurs this game! Pop constantly misjudges his player's skills and underplaying solid players like Gooden and Thomas.
5) A New Spurs Attitude: A “We-Are-Not-Losing-Anymore!!!" Attitude
Expectations define attitudes and attitudes determine actions. If you expect losses to occur, you have a bad attitude and new losses will happen. Life tends to gives exactly what you expect.
Winners win because they expect to win, and losers lose because they expect to lose. When Spurs expect to win, they will play like it!
The Spurs are multimillionaire players; have they grown complacent? Losing two games in a row to a team 20 games below .500 emphatically answers “Yes!”
How motivated can Parker be with $64 million and Eva Longoria at home?
Spurs are professionals. Spurs are expected to play hard to win all games against losing teams like the Thunder. When they do not, articles like this are written by fans who want them to bring back the glory days of past NBA Championships.
6) Spurs must create better Three-Point Shot Selections
Spurs are 28 percent on three-point shots for their last two losses and 31 percent over the last nine games. Ball rotation has been slower resulting in poor three-point shot selection.
Spurs were over 40 percent until the most recent 18 game interval. Mason is ice cold, scoreless against the Hornets in 22 minutes.
Prediction: Spurs will prove to their fans they have the hearts of a champion by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers (36-1 at home) for Cleveland’s second home loss of the year!