San Antonio Spurs: Spurs Look to Sweep Series vs Detroit Pistons

Oct 10, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) looks to pass the ball as San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) defends during the second quarter of the game at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Spurs won 86-81. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) looks to pass the ball as San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) defends during the second quarter of the game at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Spurs won 86-81. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming off their first “Rodeo Rode Trip” victory Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Antonio Spurs look to make it two straight wins Friday night when they face off against the Detroit Pistons.

The San Antonio Spurs kicked off their Rodeo Road Trip Monday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. Without the assistance of Kawhi Leonard, who was a late scratch due to a quad injury, the Spurs came up short, losing 89-74.

On Wednesday night, Leonard made his return as the Spurs took on the Embiid-less 76ers, winning a close game, 111-103.

Summarizing Pop postgame: Spurs didn't play very well. Won because they finally perked up in 4Q + have Kawhi Leonard. 76ers impressive.

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) February 9, 2017

Gregg Popovich, along with some of the more skeptical Spurs fans, weren’t happy with the Spurs performance. Despite beating the 76ers, the Spurs allowed the 76ers to stay in the game until they pulled away late in the fourth quarter.

The current 76er coach, Brett Brown, was a former assistant coach with the Spurs. Brown was the director of player development for five years until becoming an assistant coach under Popovich in 2007. His stint lasted until 2013 when he left the Spurs to become the head coach of the 76ers.

Although he may be an opponent now, Popovich had nothing but kind words for Brown:

"“…He was with me from Day 1, putting our program together. So I know how intense he is, I know how much he loves the game, I know how he teaches, and when I would get down he’d be the positive one to lift me up.”"

While the Spurs deserve some minor criticism for their effort on the defensive end, not enough credit is given to Brown for getting the most out of his players, even without the help of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. So much so, it probably took the Spurs by surprise, leading to the closely contested battle that transpired Wednesday night.

With that being said, look for the Spurs to bounce-back with a better defensive effort on Friday night as they head into the Palace of Auburn Hills to face off against the Detroit Pistons.

The Rodeo Road Trip continues tonight in Detroit. #GoSpursGo

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 10, 2017

See ya soon, @DetroitPistons. #SpursRRT

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 9, 2017

The Spurs enter this game with a record of 40-12, the second best record in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors (44-8). They come into this matchup with a road record of 21-6, also second best in the NBA behind the Warriors (21-5).

The Pistons, on the other hand, enter this game with a record of 25-28, good enough for eighth seed in the eastern conference. They currently have a home record of 16-10, and are on a two game win streak.

The Spurs are great on the road, and the Pistons are solid at home.

If the Spurs are going to win this game and start a winning streak of their own, they’ll likely have to follow the same formula they did when these teams faced off back in November.

The First Meeting

The Spurs hosted the Pistons back on November 11th, winning a tightly contested matchup, 96-86. Popovich’s game plan is usually very straightforward – take out the opponent’s best player and make the other players beat you.

However, he went against his philosophy in this matchup.

Andre Drummond, the Pistons’ best player, scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting in 32 minutes, along with 17 rebounds, a block and a steal.

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Since the Spurs had no answer for Drummond’s size and interior presence, they made sure to eliminate his teammates from scoring easy baskets. Without their starting point guard Reggie Jackson, the Pistons had to rely on Tobias Harris, Ish Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Harris scored 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, Smith scored 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and Caldwell-Pope had 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting.

On the other hand, Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge had relatively pedestrian outings. Leonard scored 17 points on 5-of-18 shooting, along with four rebounds and one assist. Aldridge scored 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting and brought down 12 rebounds.

It was Pau Gasol who lead the Spurs with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting, nine rebounds and six assists. Not only did he lead the Spurs in scoring, but assists as well.

The Rematch

Gasol, who was a major factor in the first matchup, will be sidelined for the rematch due to a finger injury, and isn’t estimated to return until February 15th.  Although Gasol is 36-years old and in the latter stages of his career, his impact on the Spurs offense is evident.

The Spurs are ranked 23rd in Offense since Pau Gasol's injury. They're hitting one of those lulls again offensively for 6 mins.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) February 9, 2017

However, in Gasol’s absence, Dewayne Dedmon has been solid in the paint. Unfortunately, he’ll have his hands full guarding Drummond, who is second in the NBA in rebounding with 13.8 per game and tied for 5th in double doubles with 34.

Jackson, who missed the first meeting, will suit up the rematch. His numbers are down across the board from last year, and some of that can definitely be attributed the sprained knee Jackson suffered in September. Hopefully for the Spurs, his rust continues.

Final Prediction

The Spurs and Pistons are two of the best defensive teams in the NBA.

The Spurs allow 98.8 points per game, second best in the NBA, while the Pistons allow 101.9 points per game, 5th best in the NBA. In terms of defensive efficiency, the Spurs are second in the NBA, while the Pistons are eighth.

The key to this game will be the Pistons role players.  Essentially, everyone not named Drummond. Will they be able to step up and help carry the load, or will Drummond be forced to put up another monster game and suffer another loss?

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Statistically speaking, the odds favor the ladder. Drummond has been the only consistent player on a Piston team that has lost more games than they won.

It’s also worth noting that Leonard had one of his worst shooting nights last time around, and rarely does Leonard have two bad shooting nights against the same team.

Spurs win a tightly contested game, and improve to 41-12 on the season.

Leonard and Aldridge both score over 20 points.