The Spurs came into Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons with an opportunity. With the Houston Rockets having lost five straight without Chris Paul to relinquish their firm grasp on the top seed and the Golden State Warriors dropping one last night, the window is wide open for the mostly–healthy Spurs to get back in the race for home-court advantage.
Instead, the third-seeded Spurs continued their Jekyll-and-Hyde act on the road with another offensive stinker. The team that happens to be almost unbeatable at home this season just can’t seem to find an offensive rhythm away from the AT&T Center no matter the opponent or who’s available for either team.
Despite missing Rudy Gay, the Spurs had their desired starting line-up and Kawhi Leonard - while still on a minutes restriction - playing well into the fourth quarter despite looking gassed. Those problems paled in comparison to the Pistons, who were missing Spurs-killer Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, and Jon Leuer, but that didn’t stop the Spurs from once again playing down to their opponent and losing on the road 93-79.
The Pistons led from buzzer-to-buzzer, and other than a 16-5 run to close the first half, the Spurs barely put up a fight. Overall the Spurs’ defense wasn’t bad. Andre Drummond (14 points, 21 rebounds) and leading-scorer Tobias Harris (12 points) were decent but not the reason The Good Guys lost to The Bad Boys. Instead, it was the unknowns who killed the Spurs in this one.
Reggie Bullock scored 10 points in the first quarter (for a 24-13 Detroit lead) and a career-high 22 overall. Two-way contract player Dwight Buycks was called up from the G-League and played a 18 solid minutes with 4 points (each while being guarded by Leonard), 3 rebounds and 3 assists. However, it was Detroit rookie Luke Kennard who gave the Spurs the most fits with a career-high 20 points while burning it up from all over the court, be it 4-5 from three or on the fast break.
Still, the Pistons only shot 44.4 percent, and while the Spurs weren’t great on defense, they did enough to win. Instead, they faced their usual problem of severely lacking any offensive rhythm on the road. Leonard led the way with 18 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge (15) and Bryn Forbes (10) were the only other Spurs in double-figures. Overall they shot a season-worst 36.9 percent from the field with 18 assists and 14 turnovers.
With the Spurs in a stretch of 10 road games out of 14 and the Rodeo Road Trip coming up in the not-too-distant future (January is only a day away), they will need to come together as a team and fix their road woes if they want any chance of catching either the Rockets or Warriors. If not, they’ll have to face one or both of those teams on the road more often than not in a playoff series. As they are now - a mere 8-10 away from home - that doesn’t sound like a promising place to be for a team vying for its sixth championship.
Man of the Match
Kawhi Leonard - 18 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists
Why not? It feels more like no one deserves this honor they don’t even know about, but when your MVP is your leading scorer on a day when no one looked good, sometimes it’s the way to go.
What I liked
Boban Marjanovic sighting! It was only for four brief minutes, but Spurs fans finally got a glimpse of their favorite Serbian giant in only his 12th appearance of the season and first against his former team. To put a cherry on top, we even got a classic Boban standing slam.
What I didn’t like
Basically everything else. I think these two tweets from J.R. Wilco sum things up the best:
Here's tonight's game in mocrocosm: a mistake means a turnover which leads to a DET opportunity that's snuffed out by good defense and the resulting Spurs' chance evaporates when a poorly timed stumble causes another turnover. pic.twitter.com/ZZ3shPhte5— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) December 31, 2017
Here's how poorly the Spurs offense is working right now: three good three-point shooters pass up shots and let Murray (SA's worst 3pt shooter) take a corner three. pic.twitter.com/b1qksrL9Db— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) December 31, 2017
I hate to say this, but I don’t have anything. I was watching this game on an I-Pad with my 17-month-old nephew running around, so getting some specifics out of this one was difficult.
Instead, I’ll use this spot to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Hopefully everyone stays safe and makes good decisions. Something to keep in mind is if you live in the South, a deep freeze is coming that could bring some slick, icy conditions. South Texas roads aren’t made for such conditions, so keep that in mind when you consider where you’re going to celebrate the ringing in of the new year. Check both your own condition and that of the roads before driving.
With that I say Happy New Year, stay safe, and see you in 2018!