The San Antonio Spurs successfully recovered from a shellacking by cruising past the Detroit Pistons, 109-99. With the win, the Spurs improved to 20-16. The loss dropped the Pistons to 10-29.
This was a needed win and a somewhat impressive one considering the Spurs were without DeMar DeRozan and it was the second night of a back-to-back. Honestly, though, the Spurs didn’t play amazing basketball tonight. Turning the ball over 21 times usually isn’t going to get it done on the road — but San Antonio’s defense was reliably solid and Detroit helped by not playing at a high level on either end.
The Spurs went on a 13-4 run in a three-minute span that started near the end of the first quarter. The run began and ended with a Devin Vassell three-pointer. After that second Vassell three, the Spurs never trailed again.
After starting the last two games, Trey Lyles was the only player on the team who didn’t play tonight.
Spurs at Pistons: Final Grades
Murray’s ball-handling was sloppier than usual and his decision-making was shaky from time to time. However, the relentless pressure he applied on the Pistons was a key to success. His intensity was high on both ends and it kept the Spurs out of lulls. Add in a few lucky-ish shots that dropped and Murray had a better than average night and a profound impact on the proceedings.
Johnson continues to look relatively subdued since returning from his COVID-19-related sabbatical. While he doesn’t have his usual boundless energy, he had moments of effectiveness tonight. Offensively, he played with poise and took good shots. He was decently active on defense and better on the boards.
Lonnie Walker IV
The good: There were stretches where Walker looked like the best player on the court. His speed and quickness allowed him to break down the defense with ease and he was either finishing with a smooth move or finding an open teammate. The bad: Any last strand of non-gray hair that Pop had left on his head went gray after Walker missed his patented finger roll dunk. He also forced a three-pointer or two that he didn’t need to force. Defensively, his positioning could have been better.
Mostly good stuff from Poeltl. He left the game for a bit after rolling his ankle but, thankfully, he was able to return. Offensively, he kept his head up, caught everything and finished well. He was also a major factor on the offensive glass. Defensively, he was defending the rim really well, supplied timely help on the perimeter and was stout rebounding the ball.
White never really got going. He was in foul trouble for a lot of the night. Defensively, he was a step slower than usual, which was a direct cause of a majority of his fouls. Offensively, his passing wasn’t crisp and his decision-making process was slower than usual. White had moments but it was a struggle for him to string together positive possessions.
After a forgettable last outing, Mills was back to cooking with gas in Detroit. He shot the ball really well, he made a few good plays with the ball, he moved unendingly without the ball and he was one of the few players wearing silver and black who took care of the ball.
Eubanks was seemingly in the middle of everything when he was on the court. His six turnovers stand out as a negative, however a few of those were moving screens and botched pick-and-rolls that weren’t necessarily his fault. Once again, his passing was a plus, he finished at the basket and rebounded with physicality, and was meanly challenging a lot of shots at the rim.
The Natural made the game look easy. When Vassell wasn’t swishing three-pointers, he was hammering home dunks in transition or flashing a surprising amount of playmaking ability off the bounce. Defensively, he was attentive and could be counted on to be in the right place. Simply put, Vassell was a good basketball player tonight who made his team look more cohesive when he was on the floor.
Gay is another guy who bounced back from an unsightly performance last night. He shot it well, created well, passed it well, and utilized his length well on the defensive end. More today, less yesterday, please.
Obviously, I agree with Pop’s decision to bench Lyles and start Walker instead. That should have been the starting lineup the previous two games, but I digress. I liked that Vassell is firmly in the rotation and was given a few bonus minutes tonight due to his strong play. Despite all the carnage, Pop also allowed Eubanks time to learn on the job. The negative regarding Pop’s coaching is I thought he could have further limited the minutes played by Murray and Johnson. Since they’re in the middle of a five-games-in-seven-nights stretch and this game wasn’t in doubt in the fourth quarter, there wasn’t a good excuse to play anyone more than 30 minutes.
The Spurs get a day off before taking on the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.