The Spurs embarrassed themselves on their visit to Detroit with a 132-98 loss to the lowly Pistons. We have to hope this is rock bottom, because if there are worse games than this one coming, the season will feel interminable.
It would have been easy to excuse a normal defeat on Sunday. The Spurs have been a bad team at full strength, so dropping a game on the road without LaMarcus Aldridge (out with injury) against a team with an imposing front line was a distinct possibility. The way San Antonio lost is the issue, no matter who was missing, as the Spurs simply seemed to give up in the third quarter. There was once again no urgency to win, which is not how teams fighting for their playoff lives must play.
There were some encouraging signs early on, which makes the blowout even more painful. Despite starting the game slow, as they are wont to do, the Spurs responded to the initial Pistons barrage. Detroit was hot from outside from the beginning but San Antonio seemed ready to answer, as everyone from Derrick White to DeMar DeRozan let it fly from beyond the arc. Transition defense was a problem, and there was only so much Jakob Poeltl could do against Andre Drummond inside, but the offense showed some interesting wrinkles, such as the guards screening for each other to create switches, and was mostly able to keep up. The Pistons’ bench looked sharper, but the Spurs’ showed effort on defense and made the game ugly enough to keep the score close heading into the break.
Then the wheels fell off.
It’s hard to explain how lost the Spurs looked in the third quarter, because they’ve rarely been that clueless, even this season. The defense allowed unimpeded drives and open three-pointers while the half court offense had zero fluidity. The zone that had confused the Pistons in the first half stopped working completely. On the other end, there was no movement and DeRozan, who had been stellar in the first half, completely disappeared, leaving Rudy Gay to try to keep the offense afloat by attacking one-on-one with predictably bad results. The bench came in and had even less success stopping Detroit and even fewer legitimate ways to create good looks. When the dust had settled at the end of the period the Spurs were trailing by 25 points. DeRozan would not check in again as the Pistons managed their lead en route to a blowout.
Again, a loss was not inevitable but certainly likely on the road and without Aldridge. At this point, expecting the Spurs to beat even weak opponents while shorthanded is too optimistic. Had they showed some progress while playing with maximum effort, I truly believe most fans would have been fine with moving on quickly and focusing on the upcoming three-game homestand.
Instead, the Spurs hit a new low. They looked more directionless, disinterested and unable to deal with adversity than ever. Unless a miraculous turnaround starts soon, it might be time to accept that this is the year in which the playoff streak will end.
- Not having a veteran third center on the roster was always a risk, because any injury to Aldridge or Poeltl was going to leave the Spurs extremely thin at the position. With Aldridge out, the Pistons feasted on poor Drew Eubanks, who did what he could but got outclassed by Drummond and an inspired Christian Wood. The offseason looks more and more like a disaster with every passing game. Let’s hope Aldridge returns soon.
- DeRozan got 20 points in 25 minutes. He was dominant, and then he disappeared in the third quarter, when things got tough. His defense was bad, as it typically is. Except from the three three-pointers he took, it felt like a quintessential DeRozan performance.
- The Spurs were willing to take threes but missed 19 of the 26 they attempted. Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes combined to go 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. The Pistons hit 15 of 31 of their three-point attempts and had five players with at least two made threes. The three-point line is a problem for the Spurs this season, on both ends.
- Lonnie Walker IV gunned like crazy, taking 12 shots in 15 minutes. I would have been fine with him taking every single shot when he was on the court, however, because he was the only Spur playing with some aggressiveness on offense. Lonnie has been getting Marco Belinelli’s second half minutes, but it might be time to give him a bigger role. He’s not the savior some make him out to be, but at least he can pressure the defense with his slashing ability.
- Derrick White shot some threes, dished out some assists and made some defensive plays. He continues to defer too much, but he had a decent performance. Dejounte Murray was everywhere on defense and even outright took the ball from Derrick Rose a few times, but his shot was off. Still, any time DJ plays good defense and get six assists counts as a good game to me. I’m choosing to remain optimistic about the young guards.