If you look at the NBA standings right now you’ll notice something kind of weird. You’ll see the top five teams in the Western Conference all with green, positive point differentials — not too weird. And you’ll see a sea of red, negative point differentials from the teams below them — also not weird.
But if you look really, really hard, go full Byakugan and squint at the team just above the thick black line that represents the cut-off for the NBA’s play-in tournament, you’ll notice that San Antonio is currently in 10th place in the West has the fifth-best point differential (+0.9) in the conference. Holy moly.
The Spurs had an overall successful west coast road trip, beating all the teams they were supposed to lose to and losing to the one they were supposed to beat. After going 3-1 on the trip, the Silver and Black now return to San Antonio for a three-game homestand, beginning with the worst team in the league that’s missing four starters.
San Antonio Spurs (13-18) vs. Detroit Pistons (5-26) | December 26, 2021 | 6:00 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Pistons Injuries: Kelly Olynyk (Out — Knee), Jerami Grant (Out — Thumb), Cade Cunningham (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Saben Lee (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Killian Hayes (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Isaiah Stewart (Out — COVID-19 Protocols), Rodney McGruder (Out — COVID-19 Protocols)
Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Josh Primo (Out — On Assignment), Joe Wieskamp (Out — Two Way), Devontae Cacok (Out — Two Way)
What to watch for
- Detroit will quite literally have half its roster unavailable for Sunday’s game. Still, as we learned in San Antonio’s recent loss to the Sacramento Kings, the Spurs can’t afford to overlook anyone. The Pistons pushed the similarly shorthanded Miami Heat to the brink on Thursday with the same players missing, only losing 115-112. Detroit shot 18-of-40 (45%) on 3-pointers, with all five of its starters canning at least two shots from beyond the arc. It could be a real threat for San Antonio — the Spurs allowed the Kings to shoot 56% on treys in their last loss. The Pistons were led by Trey Lyles, who put up 28 points in his first start of the season. If you recall, Lyles was a regular starter for the Spurs in the 2019-20 season but saw his role diminish last season before an ankle injury(?) kept him out the rest of the year. San Antonio let the 26-year-old walk in the offseason and Lyles ended up landing in Detroit. This has all the makings of a potential revenge game.
- A round of applause for the Spurs’ bench, which has hummed along for a league-leading 41.9 points per game this season. Whether it’s Lonnie Walker scoring double-digit points six of his last seven games or Bryn Forbes doing the same in four of his last five or Jock Landale carving out a role in the rotation or CAN’T-MISS KBD DROPPING 30 ON LEBRON AND THE LAKERS, the Silver and Black have been getting big minutes from their backups. It hasn’t even mattered that Devin Vassell’s dropped into a bit of a shooting slump this month — San Antonio has been deep enough to survive it.
- He had an off night against Lakers on Thursday, but Dejounte Murray’s been red hot from outside this month. He’s actually attempting roughly three less field goals per game than he was in November but has increased his number of 3s per game to 4.5 and making them at a 38.9% clip. It’s one of the many, many ways that DJ’s improved this year and a big reason for optimism among Spurs fans. Bill Simmons said on an episode of his podcast this week how, if he was Daryl Morey, an offer of Murray and Thad Young for Ben Simmons looks appetizing now — a deal, he would not have agreed to before the start of the season. But he also said that if he was the Spurs, there’s no way he’d agree to give Murray up. Kevin O’Connor agreed with him. I agree with him, too. He’s worth the hype.