San Antonio Spurs 111, Detroit Pistons 104: The Spurs midseason acquisition
AT&T Center–Antonio McDyess is not only the second best big man on the San Antonio Spurs, on this team he’s Punxsutawney Phil.
Tonight McDyess stepped on the court with the rest of the starters for his 1,000th game and saw his shadow, which can only mean the playoffs are right around the corner (the Spurs clinched tonight). Unlike Phil, McDyess’s presence was far more than ceremonial.
A year ago San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich inserted McDyess into the starting lineup to shore up the team’s defense heading into the playoffs. After biding his time for much of the year, it appears Pop might be ready to do the same.
“Starting had noting to do with Detroit or his one thousandth game or anything like that,” Popovich said. “We’re just trying to look forward to what the match-ups are going to be and what we need to do rotation-wise, so we took a look at it.”
While McDyess put up a modest eight points and five rebounds in a little over 22 minutes, the starting five got out to a blistering start, hitting their first 14 shots as part of a 40-point first quarter en route to a Spurs 111-104 victory.
And though the Pistons eventually recovered from their large early deficit, the San Antonio Spurs had more than enough firepower down the stretch with Tony Parker (23 points, seven assists), Manu Ginobili (17 points, five assists) and Gary Neal (15 points on 4-5 shooting) combining for 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Parker in particular was key, weaving his way in and out of the lane, finding teammates and layups, keeping the Pistons at bay.
“There were a couple times in the game where he took over. I remember on one play Pop told me to go sub in, but he was play so well he told me to wait two more minutes and see what happens,” Ginobili said. “He finished the third quarter and in the fourth quarter he just finished the game, so he was huge.”
In March, against a team still trying to put things together like the Pistons are, the story of tonight’s game was not necessarily who finished it, but who started. Tonight it was not mainstay DeJuan Blair.
And though Popovich would not reveal if the move was a permanent one, it could represent the team’s final boost, looking to peak for the stretch run.
Most playoff contending teams tend to improve in the latter half of the season simply by shortening their rotation, removing any minutes restraints they may have been placing on their best players.
In the case of Antonio McDyess, who has taken nights off throughout the regular season, the inclusion of him into the everyday rotation would be similar to a midseason acquisition, one better than most teams could hope for after the trade deadline.
Starting McDyess with Tim Duncan puts the Spurs best defensive front court in the starting lineup, and gives Duncan more room to operate than he does while sharing the court with Blair. Doing so this late in the season means McDyess has more left in the tank.
“Whatever it’s going to take to get us where we need to be in the playoffs I’m ready to do it. There’s only 18 or 19 games left in the season, so I’m ready to go,” McDyess said. “[Pop] has done a heck of a job with me the whole season, I can’t even complain. He took care of me so I’m able to have fresh legs down the stretch.”
And if McDyess is starting, the stretch run must be here.