In a season full of ups and downs, the Spurs at 12-18, are somehow just a game out of the 8th playoff spot. It will be important for them to take advantage of what is, on paper, a soft three-game homestand that also includes the depleted Warriors and a surprisingly decent Thunder team before January really begins.
After finishing up the homestand, the New Year really kicks off with a away-and-home series lined up against the league-leading Bucks. Other teams the Spurs meet twice in January include a strong Miami Heat team, the defending champion Toronto Raptors, and a Phoenix Suns team that has struggled but is still capable of playing the role of the upsetter. Games against the Celtics and Jazz round out a month that will, in all likelihood, determine whether or not the Spurs will be capable of sneaking into the playoffs as a lower seed.
Kicking off the homestand is a visit from a Detroit Pistons team that shellacked the Spurs when they last met in Detroit at the beginning of the month in a 132-98 loss. Missing the services of LaMarcus Aldridge that night, the Spurs were crushed on the glass 50-31, while allowing Detroit to shoot 59% from the field and 48% from beyond the arc. They’ll need to rectify these issues tonight if they hope to avenge that loss and close the year strong.
Detroit Pistons (12-20) vs. San Antonio Spurs (12-18)
December 28, 2019: 7:30 PM CT
Watch: KENS | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Pistons Injuries: Reggie Jackson (back - Questionable), Khyri Thomas (foot - OUT), Luke Kennard (knee - OUT), Jordan Bone (knee - OUT)
Don’t let the Pistons get whatever they want from three
In the game on December 1st, the Pistons shot 31 shots from beyond the arc and made 15 of them. Of those 3-point attempts, 20 of them were considered, “wide-open” by the NBA’s team tracking data, and the Pistons made 10 of them. That means almost two thirds of their 3-point field goal attempts were wide open looks and that exactly two thirds of their 3-point makes were as well.
This is a recipe for disaster against any team, let alone a team that ranks 3rd in 3PT% at 38% per game. The Spurs will need to be active along the perimeter and take away some of those looks if they want to avoid getting blown out again, this time on their home floor.
Of all their players that have played at least 17 games, Detroit has at least 6 players shooting at least 39% from beyond the arc. For the sake of comparison, the Spurs have just 2 meeting the same requirements, Patty Mills and Derrick White.
Get a body on Andre Drummond and clean up the glass
The Spurs lack of depth at the center position was on clear display against Detroit the last time these two teams met. Led by 16 rebounds from league leader in rebounds per game Andre Drummond, the Pistons were dominant on the glass in that game, holding a +19 advantage there over San Antonio, a figure also includes an 11 to 7 edge on the offensive glass.
As mentioned earlier, San Antonio, without the services of Aldridge, had to start back up Jakob Poeltl at center while relying on line-ups that featured smaller players in Drew Eubanks and Trey Lyles to shore up the lack of big man depth. With some more familiar line-ups, the Spurs should be closer to the top 10 rebounding team they’ve been all season long.
Make uncontested shots
The Good News: Of the 88 shot attempts the Spurs took against the Pistons in their last meeting, 52 of them were uncontested field goal attempts.
The Bad News: They made just 15 of them for a paltry 28.8%.
A team has to make the defense pay when they leave players open. Teams usually shoot worse on the road, but luckily for the Spurs, they’ll be within the confines of the AT&T Center, where there’s a strong likelihood that the Spurs will have a much better shooting night than they did in Detroit. More makes will also help the Spurs’ generally woeful defense out as well by forcing Detroit to take the ball out of the basket more often and allowing the Spurs time to set up their defense.
Vegas Line: Spurs -4.5, O/U 222.5
For the Pistons fan’s perspective, you can 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.