The San Antonio Spurs, riding a three-game win streak, treveled north to close out 2017 with another victory against the Detroit Pistons. Unfortunately, the Spurs strung together their most uninspired effort of the year, putting up a season-low 79 points and shooting a dismal 37 percent from the field, and just 19 percent (!) from three-point range.
The Silver and Black simply couldn’t get things going on offense, while also looking completely helpless trying to slow down the likes of Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard — role players on the Pistons who combined for a whopping 42 points.
Here are some observations from the game:
- Although Kawhi Leonard recorded just three assists on the night, it’s clear that he is really focusing on becoming a better distributor and playmaker this year. Sometimes tonight, this actually worked to his disadvantage, as he appeared to give up wide open layups or shots at the rim in favor of kicking the ball back out. Still, it’s good to see him working on sharpening this aspect of his game and taking on a more LeBron-esque role in terms of wanting to set the tone for the offense.
- Pop is never bashful about using his bench. This was especially true Saturday as he used all thirteen of his guys before the end of the first half. I mean, that’s pretty incredible. Most of it was probably due to frustration given how lackluster the starting five looked to begin this game. It’s not surprising that Pop went deep into his bench after the slow start, but using all eight of his subs within the first 24 minutes is pretty unusual.
- Quite simply, the Spurs couldn’t take advantage of mis-matches all night. Whether it was the smaller Anthony Tolliver or the less mobile Andre Drummond on LaMarcus Aldridge, or the relatively unproven Bullock locking up Leonard, the Spurs’ two stars couldn’t find their rhythm. The Pistons also threw in some double-teams at Kawhi to keep him off balance, and it worked. Leonard finished 4-11, while Aldridge shot just 6-15. The lesson being — at least one of these two must find their stroke early in road games..
- The Spurs definitely missed Rudy Gay tonight, which might have been the reason the subbing seemed to be fast and furious right out of the gate. Pop was trying to fill the production void of not having Gay available to play, and no one was up to the challenge. Gay is a sixth starting-quality player, so not having him be the first guy off the bench tonight made things difficult. This was especially true for the starting five who clearly didn’t bring it tonight and couldn’t compensate for the lackluster play of the second unit as well. Get well soon Rudy!
- Kyle Anderson has definitely earned a permanent place in the rotation. Last year, Pop went back and forth between giving minutes to him and Jonathon Simmons. But Anderson has finally made the leap this season. He looks more confident, more willing to take chances and not afraid of messing up. He was one of the few bright spots against the Pistons, notching eight points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Even when Gay comes back into the fold, Slow-Mo will still get the playing time he deserves.
- Tony Parker is still working out the kinks. At times, Parker has looked like his old self - scoring with confidence in the paint, turning on the jets when driving inside, and effortlessly orchestrating the offense. But he looked a step slower, especially when it came to keeping pace with the speedy Ish Smith. Much like Kawhi, Tony is still working himself back into shape from a devastating injury. We can expect some inconsistency early on, but expect Tony to figure it out.
- Ultimately, this was as close to a throwaway game as it gets. Given how many injuries the Spurs have had to deal with so far this season, it’s pretty amazing they are 25-12 and third in the competitive Western Conference heading into the new year. This game this will be forgotten by the time the big ball drops at midnight.
-Happy New Year