The Spurs will play the Detroit Pistons tonight in the Motor City. At 19-16, the Spurs find themselves just above the cut for the playoffs, but facing a daunting second half of the season as they work to make up games that were postponed due to the league’s health and safety protocols. The Pistons, on the other hand, are currently last in the Eastern Conference and seemingly on track for attractive odds of landing a high draft pick.
San Antonio Spurs (19-16) @ Detroit Pistons (10-28)
March 15, 2021 | 7:00 PM CST
Watch: Fox Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: LaMarcus Aldridge (Out — Not With Team)
Sixers Injuries: Dennis Smith Jr. (Out — Health and Safety Protocols), Killian Hayes (Out — Hip), Jahlil Okafor (Out — Knee)
After a brief hiatus these last couple of years, the Spurs’ defense has clearly rebounded this season. The team has a defensive rating of 109.8, per NBA.com, which is good for 9th in the league. Better yet, excluding garbage time, the Spurs’ defense sits at 7th in the NBA, per Cleaning the Glass, giving the team a top 10 defense for the first time since DeMar DeRozan’s arrival in 2018.
Against the Pistons’ 24th ranked offense, the Spurs D should be in good shape. The specific areas where the Pistons have done well this season are in getting to the rim, offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line, all areas where they rank in the top half of the league, per Cleaning the Glass. Fortunately for the good guys, keeping opponents off the boards and away from the charity stripe have long been hallmarks of San Antonio’s defense.
If the Spurs have a chink in their armor, though, it’s in number of shots allowed at the basket. While they are near the top of the league in opponent shooting percentage within 4 feet of the rim, they’re near the bottom in terms of how often opponents get that close. Against a team that has done well this year at finding their way to the bucket, that could be a critical weakness.
Pistons in transition
This Pistons’ season seems to be more about resetting the foundation for a brighter future than the number of contests won or lost. It has unquestionably been a unique campaign for the team. In addition to a busy offseason and the effects of COVID-19, which have hit just about every franchise in the league, the Pistons have also already bought out Blake Griffin and kicked off the trading season by exchanging Svi Mykhailiuk for Hamidou Diallo (and may be poised for further moves).
The team’s leading scorer is Jerami Grant, who was just acquired from the Nuggets in November. His 23.6 points per contest nearly doubles the team’s next best scorer, Josh Jackson, who was also signed in November and is averaging 13.6 ppg while coming off the bench in all but 6 games this season. Despite just arriving, there’s reason to believe that Grant, as well as a number of other players, could be moved before the trade deadline as the team’s commitment to rebuilding continues.
End of season marathon
This game is one of eleven SEGABABAs the Spurs will play over the final two months of the season. Including yesterday’s loss to the 76ers, the Spurs were facing 38 games in 64 days. Such a compressed timeline will exacerbate any issues the team faces. Injuries, especially, could be devastating, and the team will likely rest players along the way to stave off the effects of fatigue. No game in the NBA can be taken lightly, but it will be especially important for the Spurs to put their collective foot on the gas on nights where they have an opportunity to push the game out of reach early.
For the Sixers 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.