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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Pistons

A shorthanded San Antonio squad suffers a disheartening overtime loss to an even more depleted Detroit team.

San Antonio Spurs v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs dropped their third straight contest as they failed to capitalize on a severely shorthanded opponent in the downright pitiful Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Though the good guys built a 17-point buffer midway through the second quarter, their momentum fizzled out in the second half, and they never recovered.

Bryn Forbes paced the Silver and Black with a season-high 27 points and seven rebounds, while Derrick White registered his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 dimes. Devin Vassell also loaded the box score with 19 points, four boards, four assists, and three steals as Jakob Poeltl and Tre Jones added 15 points apiece.

The good guys have unsurprisingly struggled without Dejounte Murray in the lineup over their last four outings. Losing Doug McDermott and Lonnie Walker IV to health and safety protocols didn’t make their circumstances any less complicated. Though they have mostly evaded the leaguewide COVID-19 outbreak, the Spurs are now part of the crowd.

The Spurs must approach every opponent with a reasonable level of fear

Detroit entered Saturday night with the worst record in the league and 13 players on their injury report, including fourth-fifths of their usual starting lineup. They were already an absolute train wreck when completely healthy. But their dysfunction was elevated to a new level of chaos when health and safety protocols forced them to reach deep into the recesses of the professional basketball talent pool to refrain from postponing any games.

Second-year General manager Troy Weaver ultimately utilized the hardship exception to sign eight ten-day contracts to bolster their rapidly eroding roster. All that unfamiliarity on the opposing bench should have provided the Spurs a relatively resistance-free path towards a blowout victory. However, San Antonio found themselves engaged in a nail-biting overtime battle they eventually lost after relinquishing a 17-point first-half lead.

Head coach Dwayne Casey had his ball club prepared and motivated to avenge their enormous loss to San Antonio from less than a week ago, and the Pistons outhustled the Spurs for the majority of the matchup. Detroit fought for every loose ball and played like the fate of their season depended on the outcome of this random regular season meeting.

Despite their depleted depth chart, Detroit never shied away from physicality on either end. The Pistons outrebounded the good guys 63-48, pressured the Silver and Black into an uncharacteristically high 16 turnovers, and fearlessly sought out contact, getting to the free-throw line 33 times.

Even the worst organization in the NBA deserves a certain amount of respect from their opponent. Although the Spurs usually arrive dialed in and ready for 48 minutes of action, this contest was a prime example of what happens when the Spurs fail to bring the necessary energy, effort, and attention to detail.

The Silver and Black desperately need Dejounte Murray to return

San Antonio has fallen to 1-3 since Dejounte Murray entered health and safety protocols almost a week ago, and they unquestionably miss their starting floor general. Although Murray isn’t necessarily the most deadly, efficient, or creative scorer in the NBA, his wide-ranging contributions are virtually irreplaceable.

The lanky point guard paces the Spurs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, touches, deflections, shots, and minutes, and attempting to recreate that volume of production by committee hasn’t been easy. Derrick White, Tre Jones, Bryn Forbes, and Josh Primo assumed primary ballhandling duties against the Pistons, but they fell short in several areas.

White tried his best to keep the good guys afloat against Detroit as the de facto go-to option, and while he recorded 18 points and 14 dimes, he also tallied four turnovers and five personal fouls on a less than stellar 5-of-13 shooting. A patchwork supporting cast didn’t exactly help his cause, but he probably isn’t cut out to be a high-usage offensive engine.

Dejounte and Derrick aren’t capable of carrying San Antonio into the play-in when apart, but together they are among the top two-way backcourts in the NBA. San Antonio’s versatile guard tandem complement each other defensively, and they have learned to coexist on the other end. The Spurs could surprise some detractors if D&D gets into a simultaneous groove.

Bryn Forbes is turning himself into a valuable asset for San Antonio

The Bryn Forbes signing was almost universally panned by Spurs fans this offseason, but the sixth-year combo guard has changed the perception of his impact during his second go-round in San Antonio. Although Forbes is still one of the weaker defenders on the roster, improved personnel and a decrease in minutes have dampened his deficiencies.

Saturday evening was a perfect illustration of how to maximize Bryn. The undersized marksman navigated off-ball screens for a bevy of catch-and-shoot opportunities and attacked closeouts to finish at the rim or get off two-dribble pull-up jumpers. While he inherited some playmaking duties, the Spurs didn’t lean too heavily on him to get them into their sets.

Forbes has posted 12.2 points per game on .465/.427/.914 shooting splits over his last 17 appearances, and he continued his solid run of form with a season-high 27 points versus the Pistons. The 27-year-old sharpshooter has quickly established himself as one of San Antonio’s best trade assets, which is fantastic with as congested as they are the guard positions.