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Spurs get payback against the Pistons behind deadly inside-out attack

NBA: Detroit Pistons at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not often these days that the Spurs have the two best players on the floor, but that was clearly the case on Saturday evening. With DeMar DeRozan continuing his recent streak of hot shooting and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the team’s suddenly deadly three point attack, the Spurs’ offense came alive for the 2nd time in a week, burying the visiting Pistons under an avalanche of buckets from all over the floor.

After getting run out of Little Caesars Arena 4 weeks ago, the Spurs returned the favor behind DeMar’s 29 points on 13/16 from the field. His constant attacks opened up passing lanes for kick outs to the perimeter, which, in a relative rarity this season, turned into made threes. All 8 of DeMar’s assists resulted in three pointers. For the most part, though, it wasn’t the team’s shooters knocking them down. LaMarcus led the team with 5 threes, a new personal best, on just 6 attempts, while Rudy Gay made 4 of 7. The team as a whole went 18 of 35 from deep, easily eclipsing their previous season high of 15 made threes in a game set just 5 days ago.

On the other end, the Spurs’ interior defense was stout, an absolute must against a Pistons’ squad featuring Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. LaMarcus, Jakob Poeltl and Trey Lyles contributed 2 blocks apiece, with Rudy Gay adding 1 more to help hold the Pistons’ to just 47% shooting at the rim, their worst showing this season.

Drummond put up a respectable 21 points, but needed 21 shooting possessions to get there, though he added 18 rebounds and 4 blocks of his own to leave his imprint on the game. The rest of the Pistons’ big man rotation really struggled, though, combining for just 18 points. Griffin hit only 3 of his 16 shots, thanks in large part to tough defense from Trey, and neither Christian Wood, who smoked the Spurs in their last meeting, nor Thon Maker could make up the difference.

Their counterparts in the Silver and Black were much better all the way down the line. LaMarcus led the way with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Rudy poured in 16. Trey and Jakob Poeltl didn’t score much, with 5 and 4 points, respectively, but Trey added 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal, while Jakob grabbed 9 boards and 2 steals.

It was, all things considered, one of the Spurs most complete end-to-end performances of the year, even acknowledging the fact that the Pistons are a lottery team at the moment. They won all four quarters with consistent scoring and timely defense, dialing up the execution on both ends as needed to prevent the Pistons’ from extending any of their runs beyond just a handful of possessions.

Yet another solid defensive entry in the team’s game logs for this season is an encouraging development. Seven of the Spurs’ last 10 opponents have scored below their season average in points per possession. The Spurs defense has steadily moved up in the league rankings over that time and now finds itself at 21st, per Cleaning the Glass.

It’s also encouraging that both of the Spurs’ stars played well at the same time, and more importantly, played off of each other well. The dynamic may appear inverted, with DeMar’s penetration and gravity in the paint drawing help that gets LaMarcus open looks, but, at least for one night, it was a very productive way to use the two together.

Game Notes

  • Lonnie Walker IV rejoined the rotation for a solid 16 minutes of play. He scored 8 points on 3 dunks, including 2 alley-oops in transition, and a high flying layup. Every one of his buckets was electric, but other than that, Lonnie’s minutes were largely uneventful. He had a turnover when he got a little loose with the ball trying to attack one-on-one, but his defense was good and he looked relatively confident moving around the floor on both ends.
  • Patty Mills has now made the 2nd most three pointers off the bench with 1 franchise of all time, right behind a guy he used to play with.
  • Speaking of Patty, Bryn Forbes stole a page out of his playbook, snatching a lazy inbound pass midway through the first quarter for an easy layup and 2 of his 18 points on the night. He went 6 of 8 from the field, including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc.
  • DeMar has now hit 40 of his last 56 shots. That’s a 4 game run with a field goal percentage of 71.4%. That would be good for a rim-running center throwing down nothing but dunks. But for a perimeter player who has to create just about every one of his looks on his own, it’s absolutely incredible.
  • After losing to the Lakers, the 8th place Trail Blazers fell to 14-19, meaning they are now tied with the Spurs (13-18) at 11.5 games back. The Spurs, though, have a 1 game advantage in the loss column.

Next game: Vs. Warriors on Tuesday

The Spurs will get a two-day break before hosting the Warriors on New Year’s Eve.