The first quarter began with me un-installing and re-installing my constantly crashing flash player. In between all the freezing, I could see Tiago Splitter doing a great job on Greg Monroe to start the game, forcing the impressive Detroit big into two early turnovers. Unfortunately, the Pistons were led by recent addition Jose Calderon and hit pretty much everything they launched. How great was that trade for Detroit? Pretty great. Calderon is a fantastic point guard. The Spurs' defense crumbled when Splitter went to rest and Monroe and the Pistons took advantage. At the end of the first, the Pistons were up 8, 31-23.
Things only got worse in the second, as the Spurs simply couldn't contain the Pistons. Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson led an early offensive push but without the stops to reduce the lead, their effort when to waste and Detroit extended the lead. The refs allowed a lot of contact under the basket during that span, which benefited the sweet shooting Pistons, who finished the first half hitting 59% from the field. Parker and Splitter made successful forays into the paint in an attempt to reduce the lead, but, again, neither the stops nor the defensive rebounding were there. The Pistons finished the half up 13 but it could have been much worse.
I honestly thought the Spurs were going to cut the lead and make a game of it early in the third quarter. It seemed like it was going to happen, too, when Kawhi Leonard got a steal after looking visibly frustrated with his long range shooting. That play seemed to re-energize the Spurs' defense and it looked like the Pistons were going to go through a drought eventually. Instead, the Pistons weathered the storm once again and rode Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe's stellar play into their third 30+ point quarter in a row. Detroit led 95-78 going into the final period.
Just when I was giving up on the game, the Spurs started the 4th quarter well and reduced the lead. Stephen Jackson was punishing the smaller defenders in the post while Tony Parker was getting to the rim and Green was hitting threes. The scorching hot Pistons cooled down a bit and it looked like we would have a close one. But the Pistons enjoyed some ridiculously good individual performances and the Spurs just couldn't execute like they usually do at the end of games. The rebounding difference and the Piston's stellar shooting efficiency were just too much for the Spurs to overcome. On the second game of the Rodeo Road Trip, the Spurs fell to the Pistons and are 1-1 after beating Minnesota.
- The Pistons probably had their best offensive game of the season. Their 119 points ties for the most they've scored this season. The other game in which they got that many was a double overtime loss against the Hawks. It was only partially the Spurs' fault, as they went a combined 20-42 from three point range and mid range for 47.6% That's just silly.
- The Spurs didn't do themselves any favors by allowing 15 offensive boards. The Pistons only got 17 second chance points to the Spurs' 13, but those offensive rebounds were a huge momentum killer. The team definitely missed Duncan but there needs to be a concerted team effort to rebound the ball while he is out.
- I barely mentioned Greg Monroe in the game recap but he was fantastic. He has that Duncan quality of letting the game come to him instead of forcing things. It doesn't look like he is playing particularly well and then boom...you look at the box score and he has 26, 16 and 5. He's definitely an elite prospect that is quickly becoming simply an elite player. If Drummond pans out the Pistons will be scary inside for a long time.
- The Pistons did a great job of chasing the Spurs off the three point line while the Spurs couldn't close out on time. It resulted in Detroit shooting five more three pointers than their season average with a success rate 10% higher. It was a perfect storm of overall bad defense and rebounding for the Spurs.
- While Parker, Green and Leonard had good games, no Spurs big made a difference. Boris Diaw was particularly bad. Splitter, Bonner and Blair all had their moments but were outplayed by Monroe, Villanueva and Maxiell.
- The 1-3 pick and roll between Parker and Jackson is a really interesting weapon to have. It creates mismatches and takes pressure off Parker. Posting up Jackson is also a good alternative when he's not hitting from outside. The problem is the Spurs overused those options tonight. It's understandable, since two of their main offensive threats were out but it's still worrisome that the Spurs didn't look elsewhere for offense when the Pistons adjusted.
This is a tough loss but it wasn't entirely unexpected. The Pistons are better than their record suggests and they got a combined 45 points from Brandon Knight and Villanueva. The Spurs still have the best record in the league and should get either Manu or Tim back soon, so there's nothing to worry. Let's hope the lack of defensive intensity doesn't travel with the team to Brooklyn where they'll face the Nets on Sunday.
Stats via NBA.com/Stats
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