After being on the wrong end of a beatdown at the hands of the 76ers on Sunday, the Spurs responded with a blowout of their own against the reeling Pistons on Monday. While the final score of 109-99 suggests that the game was close, San Antonio led by as many as 23 in the second half en route to a convincing, if not necessarily inspiring, bounceback win.
A quick look at the standings was all that was needed to know this should be an easy game for the Silver and Black. The Pistons are last in the East and were coming off three straight losses. The only way they were going to hang around was if San Antonio took them lightly, which is unfortunately what happened early. The Spurs simply were not playing with enough energy on defense and were not executing on offense. Both teams allowed dribble penetration, which helped Detroit to create good looks from outside despite lacking shot creators. A few threes and some opportunistic points in the paint was all the Pistons needed to keep up in a low scoring first period.
As is their custom, the Spurs were sharper in the second quarter. There were still some plays in which the defense collapsed and left opponents open, but for the most part the effort increased. The ball moved better with the bench in the game and Lonnie Walker IV and Dejounte Murray combined for 17 points in the quarter to provide much-needed individual scoring in DeMar DeRozan’s absence. Meanwhile, San Antonio did a better job of controlling the paint on both ends, stopping the Pistons from getting all the way to the rim while feasting on offensive rebounds. The improvement wasn’t enough to fully put Detroit away, but the home team trailed by 10 at the break after breaking even in the first period.
The difference in talent became more obvious in the third quarter. It seemed that whenever the Spurs executed, they’d get a bucket, but the Pistons simply didn’t have answers on the other end. The lead was growing, but as it has happened too many times this season, San Antonio initially lacked the killer instinct to run their opponent out of the gym. Once again the bench had to come in and step on the gas to finally break through. Rudy Gay in particular made one timely play after another to help get a 10-point lead into the 20s. From then on it was smooth sailing, as the Pistons only reduced the deficit in garbage time.
As far as blowouts go, this wasn’t the most inspiring one both because of the quality of the opponent and the inconsistent play from everyone involved, but it was a much-needed win. The schedule is being rough to the DeRozan-less Spurs, so every victory will be important going forward, no matter how mundane they might be.
- Dejounte Murray led the Spurs with 19 points and was four assists shy of a triple-double. He also had a buzzer-beater in the third quarter that put the Spurs back up 20 going into the final period. Murray struggled a little with double teams at times, but for the most part, he was great.
- Another area in which not only Murray but also others had a hard time was turnovers. Dejounte and Derrick White had four and three, respectively, while Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks combined for 10. You can get away with that type of sloppy play against Detroit, but hopefully the Spurs will go back to being turnover-averse going forward.
- Speaking of Eubanks and Poeltl, the centers did well once again. Poeltl finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, taking advantage of a bad Pistons interior defense to score in double digits for the first time in six games. Eubanks did his job as a backup, finishing with eight points, five rebounds and four assists.
- Derrick White and Keldon Johnson were merely decent. They both made some plays, but foul trouble prevented White from being a factor and Johnson didn’t find as many seams to attack as he often does.
- Lonnie Walker IV continues to show flashes of potential as a high usage player in DeRozan’s absence. He was great in the first half, scoring 11 points in eight attempts and dishing out three assists. Unfortunately, as it tends to happen with him, he couldn’t keep up that level for the entire game, fading in the second half. Still, it was a good showing for Lonnie, who also had one of the best passes we’ve seen from a Spur this season.
- The bench veterans were huge, especially in the second half. After not making a single field goal against the 76ers, Gay and Mills combined for 26 points, 16 of which came after the break. The ball also moved better with the second unit on the floor and the defense showed more urgency. Good stuff from two of the leaders of the team.
- Devin Vassell was also terrific off the bench. He had 13 points on seven shots to go with three rebounds and three assists. All he did was hit his threes and run the floor, which is exactly what the Spurs need from him on offense. His off-ball defense was as good as ever. Just a good all around performance from the rookie.
- How many players from the Pistons roster would get minutes in San Antonio? Jerami Grant, for sure. Mason Plumlee would probably beat out Drew Eubanks for the back up center spot. Other than those two, I don’t see anyone else who could crack the Spurs’ rotation right now, which is concerning for Detroit. Maybe things will look better once Killian Hayes returns from injury and finds his footing, but for now, things look grim for in the Motor City.
Next game: @Bulls on Wednesday
The five-game road trip will continue in Chicago. The Bulls will be more challenging than the Pistons, but it will still be a winnable game for San Antonio.