The Spurs were far from the best version of themselves against the Pistons but they still got a valuable 109-99 victory on the road that extends their winning streak to nine. After a quiet performance on Monday against the Nets Tony Parker had 31 points to lead the way while four other Spurs scored in double digits. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 25 for Detroit in the losing effort.
LaMarcus Aldridge was as aggressive as he's been this season in the first half. He took 11 shots and racked up 12 points to once again pace the offense, as he did on Monday. The Spurs made it a point to go inside, especially against Ersan Ilyasova, so every big men got touches. Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw combined for 19 points to provide an extra scoring punch that was much-needed with Kawhi Leonard struggling and the turnovers piling up.
On the other end, the Spurs did a great job containing the Reggie Jackson - Andre Drummond pick and roll. Without their bread and butter play, the Pistons' starters had a hard time getting points, with the exception of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. San Antonio's bench, on the other hand, couldn't keep Aron Baynes off the offensive glass, which prevented them from breaking the game open. The nine-point lead they carried into halftime wasn't enough to feel comfortable against a team that had only tallied six losses at home going into Tuesday's night.
Fortunately for the Spurs, Tony Parker -- who had done a good job in the first half -- turned back the clock all the way to 2013. He scored eight straight points to open the second half and went on to finish the third quarter with 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting.
His offensive explosion was enough to give the Spurs a comfortable double-digit lead that they would only relinquish temporarily on a Pistons' mini-run. Aldridge and Parker extinguished any hope of a comeback only moments later and San Antonio escaped Detroit with a win.
There's nothing like a January back-to-back against Eastern teams to remind NBA fans that the regular season is a marathon. Games start to blend into one another as we reach the halfway point, they become a blur. Yet even in some random January nights there are small developments that can make or break a team's chances in June.
In that sense, Tuesday's win is valuable. Not only did the Spurs get it done in the second game of a back-to-back against a solid team but they did it without getting much of anything from Kawhi Leonard. When a key player struggles, the Spurs can adjust and have someone else step up as the leading scorer while the rest does enough to make that poor performance barely noticeable. That's a good thing to know.
Tony Parker was phenomenal on offense. Sean Elliott kept saying in the Spurs' broadcast that Caldwell-Pope was not used to guarding players like Parker but he's been guarding elite point guards all season long, including a good showing against Stephen Curry. The truth is there was nothing anyone could do to stop Tony because he was cooking. He's still really, really hard to stop when his in-between game is working.
Expecting Parker to drop 31 routinely is a recipe for disappointment but it's good to know he can still do it on occasion.
It was great to see the starters step up with Kawhi having a bad game. Asides from Parker and Aldridge, who looked like stars, the Spurs got great contributions from Tim Duncan, who made timely buckets and played good defense, and Danny Green, who stuffed the stat sheet.
Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw continue to make me so, so happy. This time Manu was sharper, not only in the scoring department but also on defense and the boards. Like he always does, he gives the team what it needs, and on Tuesday that was someone who played with energy and a degree of recklessness to match the Pistons' athleticism. Bobo, meanwhile, had a solid if unspectacular game but sopped up 26 minutes in David West's absence and was as aesthetically pleasing to watch as always.
Patty Mills is slumping. He's 2-for-12 in the past four games and without his shooting, his value on offense decreases, as he's not a creative playmaker. That being said, his defense continues to be phenomenal. Mills not only pressures guards like he always had but navigates screens expertly now. Despite going 1-for-7 from the floor, he didn't hurt the Spurs, which is testament to his improvement on the other end.
- Jonathon Simmons block!
- I really like the Pistons. I like spread pick and roll offenses, which have been going out of style recently, and they have a good one. I'd love to see how they do in the playoffs relying almost exclusively on that set up, as they don't have a creator at the wing and KCP is too inconsistent to be their version of Kyle Korver. If the season were to end today, they'd go against the ISO-heavy Raptors. That sounds like a good matchup to me.
The Spurs return to San Antonio to face the Cavaliers on Thursday. There are so many potentially interesting matchups between the two teams. Obviously Kawhi vs. LeBron is the main draw. Hopefully Leonard will perform better then than he did on Tuesday.
For the opponents' perspective, visit our good friends over at Detroit Bad Boys