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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Detroit Pistons

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Can the Silver and Black pull even when the pitiful Pistons come to the AT&T Center for a SEGABABA?

San Antonio Spurs v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

After back-to-back double-digit victories against a pair of playoff-caliber teams in their last two outings, San Antonio came crashing back to Earth as their pitiful play within the AT&T Center continued against the Miami Heat. And while the Spurs still own a comfortable 3.5 game cushion over the New Orleans Pelicans in the play-in race, their road to the postseason remains complicated as the tenth seed in the Western Conference.

Although an Eastern Conference contender blew out the Silver and Black on Wednesday evening, head coach Gregg Popovich and crew will have an opportunity to get into a rhythm when the bottom-feeding Pistons visit the 2-1-0 to cap San Antonio’s brief two-game homestand. The good guys put the Pistons away by the end of the third quarter last time these two met, so let’s keep our fingers crossed they can replicate that success.

San Antonio Spurs (28-29) vs. Detroit Pistons (18-40)

April 22, 2021 | 7:30 PM CST

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Trey Lyles (Out — Ankle)

Pistons Injuries: Dennis Smith Jr. (Out — Knee), Rodney McGruder (Out — Elbow), Killian Hayes (Day-to-Day — Rest)

What to Watch For

  • The Spurs are 4-7 in SEGABABAs this season after wiping the floor with the second-place Phoenix Suns last Saturday despite entering the evening with a shorthanded roster. And San Antonio will have a great chance to improve to 5-6 when the Pistons, who are also on the back-end of a back-to-back, visit the AT&T Center Thursday night. Detroit is 8-15 since the All-Star Break, and while that’s worlds better than the 10-25 record they posted before the annual midseason festivity, they’re still clearly one of the worst teams in the NBA. Head coach Dwane Casey and company sit in the bottom third of the league in points, rebounds, and turnovers per game. They also sit among the bottom third in free-throw, field goal, and three-point percentage. Although we’ve already learned better than to count a victory before it happens, this matchup should be San Antonio’s best chance at reclaiming the ninth seed from the Golden State Warriors. Neither squad will have much rest coming into this one, so don’t be surprised if this turns into a low-scoring affair.
  • Finding a way to balance minutes between the second-unit veterans and San Antonio’s last two first-round draft selections has been a recurring topic in my game previews. And when Patty Mills and Rudy Gay combined for a 4-of-14 dud against the Heat on Wednesday night, there was little chance I would pass on revisiting this point. The pair of seasoned role-players have shot a frigid 105-of-266 (39.5%) from the field since March 25, and with an unforgivingly condensed schedule, their exhaustion has become more apparent with each passing game. I would never advocate for their removal from the rotation altogether, but a SEGABABA would be a great time to find them some rest. And there’s no reason Devin Vassell and Luka Samanic should waste away on the sidelines on the nights when vets aren’t performing well. Sure, Dejounte Murray shot 4-of-14 by himself versus Miami. However, Murray is a 24-year-old in the process of reaching his ceiling. And whereas Gay and Mills are on expiring contracts, Murray is signed to a massive multi-year extension he inked just over a year ago. That doesn’t mean Pop shouldn’t hold Dejounte accountable for his mistakes. But allowing the young core to play through growing pains is a lot less costly when the difference between a likely first-round exit and a late-lottery pick is slim to none.
  • Usually, there’s at least a slight correlation between the output of a team’s best player and their success. The Pistons, however, are an exception to that rule. Jerami Grant has been the lone star in the Motor City this season, but Detroit is a pathetic 7-26 when he scores more than 20 points. And believe it or not, they’re 2-18 when he eclipses 25 points. A supporting cast of Mason Plumlee, Cory Joseph, Josh Jackson, and Wayne Ellington is less than ideal, so it makes sense why Grant’s impressive individual efforts have essentially been irrelevant. With that in mind, the tanking Pistons have intriguing young pieces like Hamidou Diallo, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, and Sekou Doumbouya. And if the ping pong balls fall their way at the 2021 draft lottery, the addition of Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, or Josh Green could drastically alter the three-year trajectory of this once-proud franchise.

For the Pistons 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.