Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Losers of seven of their last nine and three straight, the skidding Pistons host the steaming Spurs on Friday night.
This is the first meeting between these two teams this season and the first in almost a full calendar year. The Spurs have won five of the last six match ups and I can't keep my heart from aching with each defeat serving as a shivering reminder of what the hell happened in 2005, now eight years ago.
Game tips around 7:30 p.m. ET.
The Spurs are maddening. Eight years after they beat the Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals, they still rock the league's best record with that same core -- Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. With some good drafting, some tinkering here and there and some luck, the Spurs have been able to admirably keep the party going, even if it hasn't resulted in another championship since 2007. (Oh my! 2007 was soooooo long ago, I was just a wee wittle lad!)
The window is closing on the Spurs' version of The Big Three, though, and nobody knows that better than Gregg Popovich, one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. Pop received flak and a fine earlier this season for resting his old guys in Miami, a nationally televised, otherwise meaningless, game and the Spurs' fourth game in five nights. (The Spurs were also sued.) The Spurs managed to hang with the Heat that night, losing 105-100, and went on to win their next five games and are 26-7 since then.
Even classic Popovich tactics couldn't prevent the injuries of two of his Big Three, though. Ginobili and Duncan have been hurt for the last six games or so and are doubtful to play on Friday night against the Pistons. And yet, the Spurs have still managed to rattle off, oh, only 11 straight wins. Two of the team's four best players are hurt and they have not missed a single beat. I guess that's called a cohesive team with a working system (and good players).
The biggest reason for the Spurs' success is the great Tony Parker, who has been an absolute stud in the middle of his prime. He is currently on pace to best the season he had in leading the Spurs to that 2007 'ship and is killing it during this 11-game winning streak, putting up over 23 points on 58-percent shooting and 9.3 assists per game. Parker doesn't always do his best work against the Pistons, falling below most of his career averages in 20 games, but he frightens me Friday night.
I'm not a huge Parker fan. He's pesky, French and cheated on Eva Longoria, allegedly, and in December, he joked that the Spurs were the new 'Bad Boys.' I don't like jokes like that. But he's very good at basketball and also grossly underrated in my mind. The Spurs will go as far as Parker takes them. On Friday, it will likely be to their 12th straight win.
Keys to the game
Stop Tony Parker? I don't know if I made myself clear enough above, but he's going to be the source of the Spurs' success. Jose Calderon is going to have his hands full, so the Pistons are going to need to help him out with timely help defense and a tranquilizer.
Go Green, deny Danny Green: Green is coming off a career high 28-point performance in which he hit eight threes. He is hitting 44-percent of his long bombs during the Spurs' 11-game winning streak and 59-percent of them over his last five games. Don't let him touch the ball beyond the arc. Don't even let him look at it.
Brandon Knight: As frustratingly inconsistent Knight is, the Pistons are a much, much better team when he plays well (4-0 this year when he has a Game Score over 17). I think it's still way too early to write off Knight, but he needs to show up in his third game as the team's starting shooting guard if the Pistons are going to have any chance of winning.