It was not the fact that the San Antonio Spurs allowed Kevin Durant to score 36 points or even the loss of yet another player in Kawhi Leonard, but it was the lack of defense that led to the team’s 111-105 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Spurs came up short against the Thunder for the third straight meeting, and the theme looks to be a shortage of defensive stoppers. Gregg Popovich threw a barrage of defenders at Durant all night, only to have them scored on in every way imaginable. Leonard’s broken finger was a major blow to the Spurs’ defense as the NBA‘s leading scorer had his way with Marco Belinelli, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Corey Joseph for most of the night.
Most expected nothing less than a great performance from Durant, but the Thunders’ Reggie Jackson scoring 27 points was not expected. In the midst of scoring a game-high 37 points, Parker was not able to contain the play of Jackson, who was the x-factor that carried the Thunder to victory.
With the game in reach down the stretch, the Spurs made two vital mistakes while defending the pick-and-roll action from Durant. Instead of hedging the pick and forcing Durant to attack the basket, Tim Duncan sagged in the paint, which allowed two clutch 3-pointer. Attention to detail was not the Spurs’ strong point on the defensive end, and it led to their their 10th loss of the season.
The Spurs are now 1-9 against the top five teams in the west. In order to turn things around, they must regroup and reinvent their defensive identity with Leonard out.