Are you not entertained? - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The 61st game of the season for the San Antonio Spurs, the Spurs were 46-14 coming in, atop the league with the best record, and winner of 18 of the last 21 games, with two of those losses coming in overtime. They faced the Pistons on Sunday night.
Detroit has been doing okay ever since acquiring Jose Calderon from the Toronto Raptors, and have won 4 of their last 10 games, a bit above their current win rate. Their record of 23-38 put them within two games from the 9th position in the East, but more than 7 games from Milwaukee in the 8th seed. Their surprising rookie of the year contender (and valuable contributor), Andre Drummond, was hurt a couple of weeks ago and hasn't come back yet. That hasn't helped the team, since his energy really made the bench unit formidable, and the Pistons have lost winnable games, such as against the Hornets twice this month, which might've helped them in catching up to the 8th seed. At this point, it would take a Herculean effort for them to get to the playoffs, but they have good talent to build around in the upcoming future.
Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond were both selected for the Rising Stars Challenge, which is the best of the best in the youth of the NBA today. Kryie Irving, Kenneth Faried, Kawhi Leonard, Chandler Parsons, Damian Lillard and Ricky Rubio are the next generation and have great upside, each being among the faces of their respective franchises for years to come. Luckily for the Pistons, they have a great pool of young talent, from Greg Monroe (22 years old), to Brandon Knight (20) and Andre Drummond (19). These guys will all be stars very soon, with Monroe near All-Star status already, although he needs to be more consistent in order to get there, possibly by playing power forward instead of center as much. Brandon Knight was acting as a point guard before Jose Calderon's arrival, which has pushed him to his more natural position, but he hasn't done as well without the ball in his hands for the majority of the game. He does have good range, and has heated up the past week, so he could be dangerous.
Detroit has been one of the more successful teams in the league these past few decades, winning championships during the Bad Boys Era and, more recently, in 2004 against the Lakers (remember that super team?). They also made the Finals the very next year, and faced our boys in Silver and Black, in one of the most stressful 7 game series I've ever witnessed. The top two defensive teams of the year faced off, with the Spurs at first in the league and Detroit in second. They were also both the second seeds in their respective conferences, and defeated the 'warm' teams (the Heat and the Suns) to advance past the conference finals. San Antonio had the better record, so they had the crucial advantage of playing 4 games at home, in what turned out to be a very close matchup. It went the full seven games, but I was afraid that the Pistons could have pulled out the win despite the Spurs having won the first two games at home. The Pistons blew out San Antonio the first two games in Detroit, but the third and final game was so close, it went to overtime. Robert Horry put on a show, scoring 21 points, nearly all of them in the fourth quarter and overtime. He hit 5 of his 6 threes and essentially saved the series, as this game shifted momentum, and gave the Spurs a firm home advantage, needing only one win in two home games. In what was the first time in more than a decade, the NBA Finals needed to go all the way to seven games. The Spurs were able to pull out the win, with amazing performances from Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili (who I think should have been MVP during this run).
Standard Pre-Game Pop Quote
Mary Kane. Keep your eye on Mary Kane.
-Popovich cutting off Mike Monroe again what kind of challenge Greg Monroe presents.
Quote of the Night
"He tried to Kareem Abdul Jabber, turned out Tragic Johnson"
-Sean Elliott on Viacheslav Kravtsov's failed Abdul Jabbar-like hook shot.
Quick Game Hash
Check out Matthew Tynan's recap for more coverage.
This was the first game for the Spurs with Tony Parker out of the lineup due to his Grade 2 left ankle sprain suffered against Sacramento on Friday. This will keep him out about a month, undoubtedly a long time, but not long enough that it interferes with the playoffs. The silver lining in this injury comes down to this: we can figure out who will handle the ball when Tony sits on the bench, be it Manu, Cory, Nando, Gary or Patty. I know some Pounders are worried about depth of the point guard system, but we have 5 pgs on our roster, and at least 6 capable ball handlers. J Gomez had a great article yesterday on what the Spurs were going to do without Tony, and like him, I'm trying to see the positives out of this injury. Tony can get some rest and Manu will get lots of minutes and more control of the team, enabling him to get back to form for the playoffs. Check it out for further details on how the Spurs will adapt to their MVP being out for a month.
The system is the key for the Spurs, and if the backup point guards can stay within the system and distribute, in addition to starting ball movement, the Spurs will be fine without Tony. They won't be able to get past the Clippers or the Thunder without TP, but they should be fine even if he suffers any setbacks and misses the first round of the playoffs.
Even though Timmy doesn't think he's fully back yet, the box score says something else. He continues his high rate of blocks, with 5 in this game, and shot 50% from the field. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, and was a key component for the Spurs winning the rebound battle against the Pistons.
Played so many minutes, and didn't really contribute much. He had no points, and a couple rebounds and an assist. While he didn't turn it over, he didn't have that much of an effect on the game. Pretty much the definition of streaky shooters on this team.
Numbers of Note
- 12 - Times that the Spurs have gone over 30 assists this season
- 39 - Largest margin of victory for the Spurs this season
- 13 - How many players the Spurs dressed, and how many scored. They really share the ball.
- 17 - Points scored by Ginobili in the first half (and the entire game)
- 13,027 - Career rebounds for Big Fun, placing him 14th all time, just ahead of Buck Williams
- 19 - Fast break scoring margin. The Spurs outscored the Pistons 25-6 on the break.
- 32.6 - Detroit's shooting percentage, a season low for a Spurs' opponent.
- Cory Joseph got the start tonight over Nando De Colo and Patty Mills (link to Matthew Tynan's article). Gary Neal might've been the go-to backup if he weren't coming back from an injury, but I also think Pop likes what Cory's been showing with the Toros this season, and wants to give him some good minutes during the regular season.
- Aron Baynes also saw some minutes early in this game, which wasn't surprising, since the Spurs were up big and Boris Diaw was out tonight. He impressed me with his two shots off of the glass.
- Timmy and Kawhi had a good amount of dunks in this game. I especially liked the pass from Manu to Kawhi. Manu to Kawhi for the ferocious dunk (by Spurs' standards).
- Danny Green finished another fast break with a layup. He's been playing with a lot of confidence as of yet, and may be starting to shed his IcyHot moniker around here. Well, among me at least.
- Stephen Jackson filled up the box score with very workmanlike stats: 6 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. He was a good secondary ball handler and distributor for the bench team while Manu was sitting.
- At one point in the first half, Tiago backed up into Charlie Villanueva and knocked him onto the ground. No foul was called, and Tiago just went up and dunked it over him, and landed on top of him. It was pretty embarrassing, and Charlie gave the refs a stink eye afterwards.
- Manu's unbelievable 4-point play at the end of the first quarter. This pretty much set the tone of the game after the 1st quarter beat down.
Confidence in the Spurs
Our boys in Silver and Black still have a three game lead over the Thunder, and seemed poised for a top two finish, with or without Tony at the helm. They've also played a road-heavy schedule as of far, with 34 of them away from the AT&T Center, compared to 28 for OKC and 27 for Miami. Having only 7 away games and double that at home will give the team lots of time for practice and to figure out the lineup a bit better.
Going into the Next Game, the Spurs Need to...
...Keep passing the ball. They recorded 35 assists tonight, and won by 39! points. It was a massacre, and the Spurs did really well on the defensive end, only allowing a 20+ point quarter once, keeping the Pistons under 33% shooting. They face the Bulls next, and we saw what we did to the without the Big Three. This time they'll have two of them. As long as Manu gets good minutes and Cory sees some time, I think these games will be treated as a practice run for the playoffs, with Pop tinkering with secondary lineups and finally setting them in a couple weeks or a month.