San Antonio Spurs vs. Detroit PistonsAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
February 26, 8:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs return to the court after a four-day break to take on the inconsistent, but talented, Detroit Pistons. It marks the second meeting between the two teams over the past few weeks and it is also the first home game for the Spurs since a victory over the Sacramento Kings on February 1st. The Spurs went 6-3 on the Rodeo Road Trip, but fell in their last game on Friday to the surging Phoenix Suns.
All things considered, the Spurs have weathered quite the storm to stay in second place in the Western Conference. Despite serious and nagging injuries to players throughout the roster, the Spurs are 40-16 and two games clear of Houston for the second seed in the West. The Spurs remain 2.5 games back of OKC for home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
It seems like every player on the roster has had to start a game this year, but the Spurs have plowed through the season by avoiding bad losses. They have yet to really beat top teams in the league this year, but have done a good job avoiding losses to teams with losing records.
One such loss came at the hands of the Pistons on February 10th. That matchup was Detroit's interim head coach John Loyer's first game after taking over for Maurice Cheeks, who was fired after 50 games at the helm. In that 109-100 loss to Detroit, Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey combined for 41 points.
After the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said it was the worst his team had played defense all season, but it was also the 19 turnovers, eight in the third quarter, that led to San Antonio's demise. Tiago Splitter missed that game and the Pistons ate up San Antonio in the lane. Detroit led the rebounding edge by 12 and the offensive rebounding edge by 10.
Detroit has the starting lineup to beat any team in this league on a given night, but it's also a very inconsistent team because of the lack of depth in the second unit. The Pistons rely heavily on their starting lineup and that can cause fatigue down the stretches of games. Fatigue causes forced shots and lazy defense, two things that have really hurt Detroit during fourth quarters this season.
The Pistons are 4-6 over their last 10 games and sit in ninth place in the laughable Eastern Conference. Despite making big splashes in free agency over the summer, they are on the outside looking in on the playoffs in a conference that had four teams with a winning record as of Tuesday morning. Detroit is in a heated battle to reach the playoffs with teams like Atlanta and Charlotte, two teams that would probably prefer to be in the running for a lottery pick instead of a playoff spot. The same cannot be said for Detroit however, Joe Dumars and the Pistons organization went after it this offseason and have come up well short of the intended goal.
The Pistons remain a top-10 rebounding team in the NBA, but they're 14th in the league in scoring and in the bottom third of the league in points allowed and assists. The main issue is the bench. Detroit had three bench players collect at least 10 minutes of court time in its last loss to Golden State. That group combined to score just 15 of Detroit's 96 points. For comparison, Golden State scored 42 of its 104 points off of the bench. No matter how well Brandon Jennings is playing, or how strong the starting front court of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe can be, it is hard to ask those guys to play 40 minutes a game and overcome a 27-point bench-scoring swing.
Matchup to watch: The Spurs have to improve on defense in this game and having Kawhi Leonard back, as indicated at practice on Monday, will be huge for the perimeter defense. The biggest key, however, will be the Spur's ability to rebound the basketball, or at least prevent Detroit from getting second-chance points on the offensive glass. If San Antonio can rebound and take care of the ball, the depth for the Spurs should win out at home after a few days off to get rested up for this game.
Pistons perspective can be found here: Detroit Bad Boys
Game Prediction: Spurs by 5.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 10 1/2.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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