Detroit Pistons 119, San Antonio Spurs 109

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PALACE of AUBURN HILLS— In typical Spurs fashion, San Antonio got the best of another team by sharing the ball (26 assists) and controlling the boards (49 rebounds). 

Scratch that.

This wasn’t a typical game.  The Spurs played poorly. Detroit was a better team in every way.

Coming into the night, the Spurs trailed only the Pacers as the best team in the league at protecting the 3-point line, holding opponents to 32.7 percent from the arc. Tonight Detroit converted 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) on 3-points attempts. And it wasn’t just a matter of hot shooting on the part of the Pistons, Gregg Popovich scolded his team on a handful of occasions for going under screens and thereby giving the Pistons good looks from deep. This, and many other reasons aside, made this a very un-Spursian night.

In essence, that’s your recap.  Chalk it up to a good performance from the Pistons and bad play from the Spurs. I don’t want to read too deeply into one road loss. San Antonio still has the best record in the league.

But there is at least one underlying trend that calls for attention.

The Spurs are, as one friend put it, something of a mess at backup point guard. Gary Neal is in a slump (and he’s a shooting guard) and neither Nando de Colo nor Patty Mills have emerged to claim the rights to reserve point duties. With Manu Ginobili injured, the Spurs slump whenever Parker exits the game. Tony Parker is playing like a first team NBA guard this season, so, when Pop subs for him, a let down is inevitable. But San Antonio needs to find a way to control the bleeding. The team’s offense is absolutely ragged sans Parker.

And this is an area where the underratedness of Tony Parker is especially underrated. Parker is a solid defensive guard. Meanwhile, opposing coaches treat Neal, Mills, and De Colo as marked men whenever they enter the game. Greg Monroe owned the box score with 26 points and 16 rebounds, but Brandon Knight, Will Bynum, and Rodney Stuckey took advantage of the Spurs in the second half with timely buckets that effectively stalled any momentum the Spurs had towards a comeback.

In the playoffs, Parker’s minutes increase and these problems largely go away. But still, one wonders: who will win minutes behind Parker come late April?

  • A friend

    Man, way to under cut me.

  • Spurholic Mumbai

    Suddenly the “overstuffed” guard position – Parker/Neal/De Colo/Mills/Joseph, appears to have become the new problem area. More than the personnel, the role given to players may be the cause. The experiment with Neal as the ball handler has to be done away with, esp when Manu is not playing. Neal’s role first and foremost is to shoot (and score!), ball handling should be rotated between Patty Mills (free Mills) and Cory Joseph, both are fairly pesky defenders. Neal has to be restored to his primary role of shooting guard, let Mills/Joseph take care of ball handling, that is till Manu returns. Tonite, might have been a good opportunity for the coaching staff to give extended time to De Colo esp to guard Knight/Stuckey and Mills to take on Calderon and exploit the speed mismatch.

  • senorglory

    Do we need to give consistent back up minutes to one of these guys regularly in order for one these guys to develop? Have we done that?

  • merkin

    When I read shootaround was canceled due to weather, I knew it was going to be a rough go. The Spurs are a Southern team, they’re not used to the cold. It took a while for ‘em to warm-up while the Pistons were hot throughout. Weather as metaphor.

  • mnspurfan

    When will Manu be back?

  • Graham

    I think once either Mills or De Colo step up their game, the backup 1 spot is theirs. Right now Pop’s probably giving both ample time to show they are ready and want that responsibility, but neither has really made ‘the leap’. Neal did a good job holding down the fort back when we didn’t have a legit backup PG after Ford went down, but first and foremost he’s a shooting guard. People forget that when they bash his PG skills sometimes, but it’s not his natural position. He only still has the gig because of his innate understanding of the Offense and the fact that backup SG is already handled by manu for the most part.

    Obviously this problem only rears it’s ugly head with Manu out, since he is more than able to handle 2nd unit offensive duties, and will (hopefully) be largely moot come playoff time. Still, I am waiting for Mills or De Colo to step up and grab that backup PG spot that’s being held out for them. They just gotta be consistent to get it.

  • Al Jefferson

    Let’s start trade rumors for Eric Bledsoe…. and here we go.

  • assistman

    What I think you are seeing now, is Pop trying to shop 1 or 2 gaurds and giving them each minutes. Come playoff time it is essentially irrelevant, b/c with this roster in the playoffs, Manu backs up TP, and Neal backs up Green, with Jax possibly stealing minutes at gaurd if Neal can’t help.

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