Detroit Pistons 119, San Antonio Spurs 109
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).
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?