If you are experiencing a feeling that feels somewhat foreign, you aren’t alone. It’s called having just watched a stress-free, blowout win without it ever really feeling like the outcome was in doubt. That’s what happed tonight as the Spurs faced the one team in the league with a worse record than them, the Detroit Pistons. While going in it felt like the ultimate trap game following a couple of close but encouraging losses to much better teams, the Spurs were quick to squash any fears of a letdown.
The first quarter was very much the epitome of the Spurs offense this season. When they settled for contested threes, they missed. When they found someone rolling forwards the basket or simply lobbed to Victor Wembanyama down low, they scored. They got out to a 21-12 lead while shooting 9-12 from inside the arc but missing their first three threes before Keldon Johnson finally drained one. They adjusted and kept attacking the Detroit defense down low, scoring 22 points in the paint getting the lead as high as 16 before settling at 31-19 heading into the second quarter.
If there was a “bad” quarter for the Spurs in this game, it was the second. Their effort level dropped a bit, and the Pistons used Jalen Duren to attack the defense down low when Wemby wasn’t in the game. Still, the Spurs did just enough to hold serve, ending the first half still up 12 at 63-51 thanks to a banked Jeremy Sochan three on their final possession. It felt very much like a sloppy, low-scoring quarter featuring the two worst teams in the league at times, so it was actually kind of surprising to realize both teams had scored 32 points apiece when all was said and done.
The next step would be to continue an encouraging trend from recent games, which is avoiding the “turd” quarter, and they did. The Spurs once again came out of the locker room strong, opening on a 10-3 run thanks to some amazing passing from Wemby that all but put the game away. They got the lead as high as 20 several times and led 95-77 heading into the final frame. It marked the third straight game the Spurs won the third quarter, this time 32-26. (Coincidently or not, that also happens to be same games Tre Jones has started. Take from that what you will.)
The onslaught continued to start fourth quarter, and it was just a matter of getting Wemby his first career triple-double as he stood at 14 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. He got it with a pass to a cutting Cedi Osman and assisting two of McDermott’s four threes of the quarter before quickly sitting after 21 minutes of play (we can always dream it’s a sign he can play the SEGABABA on Saturday). While Detroit hit a few threes to get back within 17 after Gregg Popovich emptied the bench, there was never really any worry they would go on a serious run, and the Spurs cruised to a 130-108 victory.
- With Cade Cunningham (who has yet to play a game against the Spurs in his career) out with an injured toe, the defense’s main task was going to be to keep Bojan Bogdanovic in check. They didn’t pass the test in the first half, allowing him 14 points on 6-9 shooting, but it was noteworthy that when the Spurs defense stayed discipline, he didn’t do much damage. It was when they had miscommunications or breakdowns that he took advantage. They did a much better job containing him in the second in half, as he scored just 4 points. Sohcan especially played some excellent one-on-one defense on him.
- It was a very balanced scoring night, which was great to see, and regardless of the opponent, it was encouraging to know it doesn’t require career shooting nights from Devin Vassell and/or Wemby to secure a win. Overall, the Spurs had eight players score in double digits, led by 17 from Johnson, 16 from Wemby and Vassell, 15 from Sochan, 14 from McDermott, and 11 from Jones, Osman, and Dominick Barlow.
- While the Spurs didn’t have a great shooting night from three, hitting just 9-27 (mostly thanks to a combined 1-9 night from Wemby and Vassell), for the most part they seemed to do a good job of recognizing that their advantage was driving to the basket due to the Pistons’ lack of protection. They pick-and-rolled their opponent to death, ending the game with a whopping 72 points in the paint. That being said, the Pistons were able to do similar damage to the Spurs, especially when Wemby sat, getting 62 points in the paint of their own.
- Johnson could be seen carrying the ball off the court after the game, presumably to present it to Wemby in honor of his first triple-double. Getting it in 21 minutes of playing time makes him the second quickest to ever do it after Russell Westbrook got one in 20 minutes in 2014 (they are also the only two to get one in under 25 minutes), and once Wemby’s minutes restrictions are lifted, there will likely be many more to come.
Play of the Game
There were plenty of highlights in this one, including a few reverse dunks from Wemby and some amazing passing between him and...drum roll...Sochan, but it has to be the simple pass to McDermott that him his first career triple double.
Up next: Friday vs. Charlotte Hornets
The Spurs have a real chance to start a winning streak as they return home to welcome the LaMelo Ball-less Hornets, who have struggled mightily all season. Hopefully the Spurs don’t come in too high off the win, but instead ride the momentum and keep showing the improvements of the last three games.