The visiting Pistons came firing out of the gates in the first half, and quickly let the Spurs know they were in for a four-quarter affair. The offense was humming against a stingy Pistons’ defense (every player who logged minutes notched and assist for a season high 30 dimes), but the Silver and Black failed to connect on a number of open looks. This allowed Stan Van Gundy’s group to take control of the game and turn it into a slugfest. The Spurs have shown they can win this kind of game, but that’s tough to do when your leading scorers combine to go 10-29 from the field. The home team eventually found a way to outlast a Detroit squad that I think will be a tough out for anybody in a seven game series this spring. Here are the takeaways from a physical night of basketball.
- In his first start of the year, Rudy Gay had what I thought was his most complete game of the season. At 6’9, Gay is a match up nightmare for opposing teams on both ends of the floor. Against Detroit we started to see him use that size and strength to his advantage; especially on defense. Gay has been an elite scorer his entire career, so frankly, I’m not worried about him putting the ball in the basket. That will come as the season progresses and his comfort and confidence rises. The defense is what will ultimately make him a special player for the Spurs this season. If he can consistently duplicate performances like this, the Spurs will have a three headed monster on the wings defensively that could shut down opposing backcourts.
- Danny Green has made so many subtle improvements to his game that at times he has looked like a completely different player. His ability to put the ball on the deck and drive past a defender closing out on him has completely opened up the offense. When #14 can attack the rim, it causes chaos among the defensive rotations, and tonight it led to a number of open looks.
- There were some flashes of a vintage Manu Ginobili in the AT&T Center Monday night. In the first half #20 did it all. He took charges, fearlessly attacked the rim, sunk transition threes, and quarterbacked the offense against a stingy Pistons defense. He began to wear down a bit as the game progressed, coughing the ball up a few times in the second half. At this stage of his career, it’s always comforting to see #20 turn it on, no matter how long he’s able.
- LaMarcus Aldridge’s shot was off, as Andre Drummond gave him fits, using his strength to body him up in the low post and his length to disrupt the shots he attempted. A big positive from this though, was the fact that the big man never got rattled and did not force the issue. In the past these were the type of games you could see LA become frustrated, jack up shots from the perimeter, and mentally check out. He did not do that Monday night. Instead, he stayed the course and found a way to rally his team. To me, this was a big milestone for Aldridge, as he showed some maturity and composure and stayed with it to the end — when he was able to draw a huge foul and hit both freebies with just seconds remaining in the game.
- It was great to see Davis Bertans continue his streak of hot shooting from beyond the arc. A night after leading the Spurs in scoring against Oklahoma City, the long range sniper poured 11 points off the bench, and looks like he has solidified his spot in the rotation after Kyle Anderon went down with an MCL sprain on Sunday. Davis has been in the Popovich dog house for much of this season, so it will be an important stretch of games coming up for the Latvian sharpshooter.
- While his frontcourt mate struggled, Pau Gasol was a force in the paint against an athletic Detroit team. Despite normally providing the majority of his production on jumpers from 15 feet and from beyond the arc, Gasol went right at the Pistons. The two time NBA champion was a monster in the paint and allowed the Spurs to continue their inside-out attack. This should not be a surprise though, as the 16 year vet has made this type of performance the norm this season.
- I thought the duo of Patty Mills and Tony Parker were decent. Neither player’s stat line jumps out at you, but if the Spurs can consistently get 18-25 points and 7-10 assists combined from their primary point guards, they will be just fine.