The shorthanded San Antonio Spurs took care of business against the similarly undermanned Detorit Pistons, 106-91, picking up a win in the final matchup of the two-game homestand while clawing back to .500.
Derrick White paced the Silver and Black with 26 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, followed by 18 points from Lonnie Walker IV and 17 from Jakob Poeltl. Josh Jackson led Detroit with 29 points and four boards.
- It wasn’t garbage time when Devin Vassell entered the contest, and that’s a massive success in my book. The rookie wing immediately committed a shooting foul upon checking in but recovered with a heads-up fastbreak assist to a trailing Rudy Gay in transition. San Antonio’s 2020 lottery pick also illustrated his uncanny off-ball movement, getting loose for a layup off a flawlessly timed cut.
- The Silver and Black avoided the dreaded third-quarter curse, extending their lead by a pair of points heading into the fourth frame. San Antonio gave fans a scare when Detroit made it a one-possession game at the beginning of the final period, but they refocused and recaptured their double-digit cushion down the stretch.
- Jakob Poeltl has been a man on a mission to protect the paint all season long, but the Austrian center has cranked his shot-blocking prowess up a few degrees over the last seven games. The towering seven-footer has been a one-person swat team as of late, averaging 2.9 blocks per game since April 11, second only to two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert over that span. And Jakob played the part of a Swiss Army knife for the Spurs, recording 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and four blocks against the Pistons.
- Keldon Johnson rocked the rim with a resounding slam that took the air out of the Pistons with a few minutes left in the contest. Though the second-year forward doesn’t get the most hang-time, no one on San Antonio’s roster dunks the ball harder than Keldon. Science says it’s impossible for a human being to rip down the rim, but I’m not sure anyone told the 2019 first-rounder because he still looks like he’s trying.
- While Pistons turned to Hak-a-Jak tactics late in the fourth quarter, Poeltl might have made future opponents think twice before intentionally sending him to the charity stripe. The big man rattled home three of his four late free throws, and he is now 18-of-24 (75%) from the line since April began.
- The rules on closing out on shooters to allow them the appropriate space to land have been abundantly clear since Zaza crowded Kawhi’s airspace and knocked him out of the 2017 Western Conference Finals. Yet game after game, we continue to see lines blurred by inconsistent whistles from the referees as they regularly ignore leg flares the league supposedly outlawed years ago. Just because Rudy Gay found himself on the wrong end of three free throws doesn’t mean it’s a Spurs-specific issue. This discrepancy is widespread, and the association needs to solve it.
- Tre Jones received some shockingly early minutes, subbing in for Derrick White with five minutes remaining in the opening frame. The rookie point guard launched and made corner triple without a semblance of hesitation. And seeing as the three-ball was a glaring weakness for the former Blue Devil coming out of the draft, any progress in that area is a welcome sight. He also notched a few points and assists out of the pick-and-roll, playing a beautifully executed game of cat and mouse with Isaiah Stewart.
- DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, and Patty Mills took a much-needed day off while San Antonio’s young core put their development on full display. Almost every one of the Silver and Black’s recent draftees performed well. And although Detroit was just as shorthanded with Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, and Cory Joseph sidelined, Spurs fans can sleep soundly knowing head coach Gregg Popovich can rest key rotation players without a complete implosion.
- San Antonio came out of the gates a bit timid and didn’t get on the board until Lonnie Walker IV snaked through the defense for a layup at the 9:45 mark of the first quarter. The Spurs looked lost without their usual go-to scorer, and it would be almost a minute before they notched another field goal. Luckily, Lonnie had the hot hand, nailing a pair of three-balls and racking up ten points in the opening period.
- Whatever confidence Luka Samanic displayed in the immediate aftermath of his return from the Gubble has seemingly evaporated. The second-year forward showed some encouraging flashes of two-way potential filling in for Rudy Gay and Keldon Johnson before the All-Star Break. But Luka has failed to gain traction throughout his unpredictably oscillating minutes, and his struggles continued against the Pistons. He still had small bursts of brilliance, but two points, three rebounds, one assist, and two steals in 14 minutes likely won’t inspire Pop to hand him additional playing time.
- It was easy to envision Derrick White possibly becoming the leading man for the Spurs next season if DeMar DeRozan walks in free agency. The fourth-year combo guard was spectacular in virtually every facet of the game against Detroit, stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 26 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, one steal, and three blocks. He looks like a genuine two-way star on occasion, and this was undoubtedly one of his best outings to date.
- After a 2-of-9 stinker against the Miami Heat on the first leg of a back-to-back, Rudy Gay bounced back with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting. His matador defense, however, left a lot to be desired. Rudy Gay has suited up in 17 consecutive games, but it might be time to give him a day to get his legs back underneath him. The 15th-year pro has logged a ton of minutes in a ridiculously compressed regular-season schedule, and there are obvious signs of fatigue.
- The Spurs are now 5-7 in SEGABABAs this season. And with five back-to-backs left on their schedule against drastically better opponents than the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio could slip outside of the play-in race if they lose any of their remaining winnable games. The Pelicans are only three-and-half games behind the Silver and Black, and beating New Orleans could go a long way towards improving their positioning as the Western Conference ninth seed.
For the Pistons fans’ perspective, visit Detroit Bad Boys.