The San Antonio Spurs accomplished the seemingly improbable Friday night in an impressive win against the Los Angeles Clippers. And while that victory will live large in the minds of Spurs fans everywhere, it’s time to move on in pursuit of the next one. The NBA schedule waits for no team, and after such a rousing triumph, the Silver and Black will have to be careful not to fall prey to an inevitable letdown.
The Pistons, not unlike the Spurs, are a better team than their record indicates. Somewhat predictably they have suffered in the absence of their primary star, Blake Griffin. And just as predictably they have done well when their perennially fragile, yet still remarkable star has been on the court.
Unfortunately for the Spurs, Griffin will in fact be active for this game. And even more unfortunately, also looks to be a game in which LaMarcus Aldridge will be absent, as he is now listed as day-to-day with right thigh soreness. Considering Aldridge’s long-standing degree of importance to both San Antonio’s offense and front-court defense, this is not ideal, especially with the prospect of facing both Griffin and Andre Drummond down low.
Pop will have to get particularly creative, with Chimezie Metu also out for the contest, leaving Jakob Poeltl and Trey Lyles as the only full-time members of the roster left to contend with the Pistons’ bodacious big men.
Fortunately for the Spurs, Detroit will still be down an important back-court contributor in Reggie Jackson. In the absence of one of their best players, San Antonio will have to find a way to win the battle in other areas, and that one will be especially critical.
San Antonio Spurs (7-13) vs. Detroit Pistons (6-13)
December 1, 2019: 4:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
What to watch for:
- Which Austin player will get the call-up? - Since San Antonio will only be carrying two traditionally sized bigs, it’ll be interesting to see how Pop reacts to this. Will he decide to keep things small in an effort to keep the Pistons from going with a two-big front-court, and run with some combination of Rudy Gay and DeMarre Carroll at the 4? Will towel-waver extraordinaire Drew Eubanks get some critical run? Or will we finally get the NBA debut of San Antonio’s 2019 1st round pick, Luka Samanic? Out of those three options, the third one seems most unlikely, but you never know.
- Will Rudy start again? - Gay got the start over Lyles, Poeltl, and Carroll Friday night, and the results were pretty good. As Bruno Passos has already pointed out, Rudy’s presence in the starting lineup was a big part of San Antonio’s turnaround last season. It’ll be interesting to see if that holds.
- Will the Spurs continue to let it fly from deep? - San Antonio took 36(!) threes against the Clippers, and shot just shy of 39%. To be fair, a lot of those shots were the result of excellent ball movement, but the math is hard to ignore when San Antonio has always been so accurate from downtown. If the Spurs do end up going small, this will be something to watch, since it’s arguably one of the best ways for smaller lineups to make up for their lack of size.
- Derrick White - Are we finally about to witness the rise of San Antonio’s most perplexing talent? For most of the off-season, the hype largely surrounded the injury return of Dejounte Murray and his insertion into the starting lineup. But with Dejounte’s talents better served as part of the second unit (for now), White finally gave us a taste of what he can do with the more methodically paced first unit, and the results were a large part of the victory over the Clippers. White went 5-7 from deep, while consistently making his defensive assignments feel uncomfortable. (There’s a reason Patrick Beverley, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard went a combined 13-43, though it certainly wasn’t all Derrick.) If this team is to remain the best version of itself, White will have to be that version of himself more often.
This looks to be a sneakily dangerous match-up, and the hope is that Friday’s momentum will carry the Silver and Black to another victory. But between early-season struggles and Aldridge’s absence, don’t be surprised if this contest ends up feeling a bit too close for comfort. This game will likely serve as a important benchmark as to whether Friday's victory was an outlier, or an indication of similar victories to come. Either way, it’ll certainly have my full attention.
Vegas odds: Pistons by 4
For the Pistons fans’ perspective, visit Detroit Bad Boys.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed if you don’t have a radio around.