The San Antonio Spurs (13-18) successfully got their revenge against the Detroit Pistons (12-21) on Saturday night. After losing earlier in the season 132-98 in Detroit, the Spurs beat the Pistons tonight in San Antonio by a final score of 136-109. The win moves the good guys into a tie for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The Spurs started well and soon led 25-15 in the first quarter. Unfortunately, the bench took their foot off the gas and the Pistons were able to charge back before the end of the period.
San Antonio was up 30-28 heading into the second quarter, however the Pistons continued their run. Detroit eventually took a 45-40 lead — but then it was the Spurs who closed out the half strong. Heading into halftime, the Spurs were up 59-55.
The third quarter was when the Spurs were able to seize control of the game. To end the period, DeMar DeRozan assisted on three consecutive three-pointers and then scored the final two buckets to finish off a masterful quarter in which the Spurs outscored the Pistons 42-25.
The Spurs took a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter and the Pistons never truly challenged. The final three minutes of the game was certified garbage time.
All in all, this was a very good win. The Pistons aren’t much of a team right now but the Spurs appeared to be able to carry forward some of their good play from the recent road trip. They hit a season-high 18 three-pointers and played hard on both ends.
Spurs vs. Pistons – Final Grades
LaMarcus Aldridge only hit 4-of-13 two-pointers but was able to make up for that by nailing 5-of-6 three-pointers. The five made three-pointers were a career-high and he’s now shooting 40.4% from deep. (I don’t think anyone has given Aldridge enough credit for modernizing his game this year. Compared to last year, his three-pointers attempted per minute are up more than 360%. That’s quite a year-over-year jump for a 34-year-old.) Other than shoot and make threes, Aldridge also rebounded really well, defended the paint with stubbornness and ran the court hard both ways.
This had to be one of DeMar DeRozan’s most aesthetically-pleasing performances in silver and black. He played at a perfect pace, only took good shots, limited his mistakes and his playmaking was excellent off the dribble. Amazingly, each of his eight assists led to a three-pointer, including three straight threes in the third that expanded San Antonio’s 13-point lead to 22 points in less than 80 seconds. Defensively, he wasn’t amazing but he stayed mentally engaged. Overall, when DeRozan plays like this (patient, hunt for good shots, drive and kick to three-point shooters, stay awake on D), he’s a major weapon for the Spurs.
Dejounte Murray’s stats look good but he struggled more than the numbers let on. Offensively, it was great to see him knock down two more three-pointers and flash playmaking ability. But a lot of the time, he didn’t know whether to call his own number or to pass. And when he did pass, he usually didn’t pass it to the right guy or at the proper time. Defensively, while he was really active, he also was caught overplaying his man a handful of times.
Hopefully this will turn out to be the needed first step that Bryn Forbes desperately needs. I liked his shot-selection and the fact that he was ready and willing to pass — something that hasn’t been the case too often as of late. Defensively, Forbes didn’t really guard anyone of note but he at least avoided getting exploited much at all against the Pistons. Efficient, heady game — well done.
Trey Lyles is looking more and more comfortable in the starting lineup. Compared to early this season, his jumper looks so much better. He’s using his legs a lot more and not just flinging it with his upper body. Defensively, while he got overpowered at times and could have done better on the glass, he got a pair of blocks and altered a couple other shots. Out on the perimeter, Lyles also did decent to good work.
The last time Jakob Poeltl played the Pistons, his defensive rebounding (or lack thereof) really hurt the team. When he wasn’t getting steamrolled by Andre Drummond, Christian Wood was paving over him. Tonight, Poeltl was much sturdier on the glass. In fact, his nine defensive rebounds in 23 minutes was downright dominant — and it made a big difference. Outside of the rebounding, Poeltl also got two more blocks, made smart passes and stayed on high-alert on both ends.
Rudy Gay played really well against the Mavericks and followed it up with almost a carbon copy of that performance. He once again went 4-for-7 on three-pointers, did good rebounding work and remained active on defense. Considering how much Gay has struggled this year compared to last year — particularly from three-point range — these back-to-back strong outings were a sight for sore eyes.
The good: Derrick White took open three-pointers without hesitation. His passing and playmaking were a notch above par. White’s defense was relatively solid. His pushing of the pace was better than usual. The bad: White only hit one shot and started hanging his head after mistakes. Speaking of mistakes, he had a couple of the boneheaded variety. He could have driven the ball to the basket more often. Defensively, we’re still waiting for him to play the elite D we witnessed at times last season.
Lonnie Walker IV
Lonnie Walker was back in the regular rotation! Shout it from the rooftops. Technically speaking, Walker was far from perfect. His shot-select was iffy, he wasn’t doing much rebounding and he made a handful of mistakes on the defensive end. That said, the energy he brought to the game was palpable. He ignited the fast break, added a new element to the game the Pistons were forced to match and pressured the ball well defensively. As I’ve stated repeatedly, Walker needs to be in the rotation from here on out. Even when he’s making technical mistakes, his vivacity is contagious. Let him continue to learn on the job. Please?
Patty Mills had eight points and two assists in the fourth quarter after the game was all but decided. In the first three quarters he did … next to nothing. The electricity he typically brings to the game was out of order and he couldn’t get much going on either end. Thankfully, the Spurs didn’t need him on this night.
Drew Eubanks has a big, coordinated body. He has athleticism and a deceptive amount of skill. It’s still questionable whether he’s a long-term NBA player but it looks like he can become a capable backup center. To futureproof his game, he needs to be working on a jumpshot in the G League. Eubanks should be able to develop one since he’s a pretty good free throw shooter and his form looks good.
Marco Belinelli was relegated to dumpster duty on Saturday night. We’ll see if this is a permanent move or just temporary like the previous false alarms this season.
Putting Walker back in the rotation was a good move. Not going back to Belinelli after Walker made mistakes was even better to see. Having the wherewithal to play Poeltl next to Aldridge even though they didn’t start together was also really good. We haven’t seen much of that this year so I’ll give Pop credit for thinking outside of his normal box. He also stuck with Murray through his struggles, called plays for Gay to help him get going and his complete (and, honestly, surprising) trust in Lyles is starting to pay off. No Murray-White backcourt but, hey, let’s not get greedy.
Next Up for the Spurs
This was step one of a three-game, must-win homestand for the Spurs. The Warriors game on the eve of the new year is the next must-win game. The Cavs game earlier this season was a bad loss … but losing this Warriors game would probably be even worse since the Spurs are actually starting to look like a team capable of making the playoffs.