It’s hard not to write this preview without an inflated sense of positivity. This year started off with the Spurs (backed by 18,581 extremely vocal in-arena fans) taking a definitive win against the Toronto Raptors. The game served as a cathartic end to the Spurs’ most storied trade as well as the necessary defining of a new era in San Antonio.
Two nights later, the Silver & Black looked weak and out of sorts, turning over the ball throughout the first period and setting a tone of despair. Even with the rough start, the Spurs ended the half, and the game, ahead by 20 points.
The good guys have been on a tear, which makes realistic expectations nearly impossible. But the tone shifts as the location changes. The AT&T Center has been friendly. Alas, tonight’s game takes place on the road where the Spurs are currently 6-12. Will they keep the momentum going in Detroit, Michigan’s Little Caesars Arena?
January 3, 2019, 6:00pm
Watch: Fox Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI
San Antonio Spurs (22-17) vs. Detroit Pistons (17-20)
San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray (OUT - torn right ACL)
Detroit Pistons: Zaza Pachulia (OUT- leg), Ish Smith (OUT - groin), Henry Ellenson (OUT - ankle)
Dwane Casey’s first season in the Motor City has stalled. After starting 4-0, the Pistons went 0-5. This has been their season. Streaky and inconsistent. After the five straight losses they went 9-2, then 0-6, followed by and even 3-3, and finally 1-4 in the last 5 games. So hopefully this isn’t the game where their luck rebounds.
Speaking of rebounding, Andre Drummond is the league’s leader, averaging just over 15 per game. He has the most offensive rebounds thus far this season, so look for Pop to go big.
In the Spurs last two losses they gave up 19 and 16 offensive rebounds. Limiting second chance points are a key factor in taking a road win. With LaMarcus Aldridge a better match for Blake Griffin, look for Jakob Poeltl to clock some minutes shoving the Pistons big man around. Having Rudy Gay and Davis Bertans on Griffin allows Detroit’s best scorer too much wiggle room.
With two of their five bigger players out with injury (if you can even call Zaza Pachilia a “player”), utilizing Poeltl creates the opportunity to wear Drummond down or get him into foul trouble. The Spurs can also take advantage of Drummond’s 51.9% free throw accuracy when necessary to slow his pace and make him a liability on the floor.
The Spurs are a machine. Derrick White has made improvement by leaps and bounds in a matter of weeks. And while opponents’ heads are spinning at this relatively unknown guard, DeMar DeRozan pulled his first triple-double, Bryn Forbes is still knocking down 3s with ease, and — oh, yeah — LaMarcus Aldridge is a sill perennial threat. Aldridge is starting games strong, setting a tone that the paint is not safe. As soon as defenses start double and triple-teaming him, he kicks it out to a wide-open three-point shooter.
And how about those third quarters? Have you noticed that DeMar DeRozan isn’t shooting? He’s dishing out dimes throughout the period until he’s convinced defenses he just won’t shoot, and then BAM, he’s taking over games. Like I said, it’s hard to find the flaws when the play looks so good. Even the mistakes pan out.
The Pistons are missing 3 bench players and one of their starters, Glenn Robinson III, has only been back for one game since missing the last month over an ankle injury.
The Spurs bench, on the other hand, has been superb. As opposing coaches have pointed out, San Antonio’s second unit comes in with a vengeance and keeps players on their heels. With Patty Mills at the helm, the pace is frenetic. If the Spurs can continue feeding Aldridge and Forbes in the first six minutes, the bench can pile on. Bertans and Marco Belinelli hitting beyond that arc with frequency and consistency, paired with Poeltl dunks, could leave fans more time to enjoy Drew Eubanks, Chimezie Metu, and Lonnie Walker IV in the latter half of the final frame while LMA and Double-D rest up for the trip to Memphis.
Vegas Line: Spurs by 2.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 17 (you had to know that was coming).
For the Pistons’ perspective, check out Detroit Bad Boys.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this afternoon for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.