Many outsiders feel as though the Pistons' current five game winning streak is fools gold. They have stated that our competition's combined record over that stretch was soft. The Pistons have a chance tonight to change their tune when they face the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio.
It is true, the competition was soft. The (as of now) combined record of the teams we beat in the last five games is 65-114 for a combined winning percentage of 36.3 percent. However, I do not think you can simply measure the magnitude of our five game winning streak by their combined winning percentage. We did not win those games by two points. We did not win those games by six points. As Sean Corp pointed out, we have been winning them by an elite margin! Not to mention, we were losing to teams like those earlier this season, including the Philadelphia 76ers. So please excuse me if I seem to be overly optimistic about tonight's game.
Tonight is the first game in a set of four games in five nights and the competition is much more accomplished. The combined record of the four teams in this set is 89-50 for a winning percentage of 64-percent. Not to add any more difficulty in there, but two of the games are on the road ... in the west. Only two of the five teams we have beaten on the streak average 100 or more points per game. In this stretch, only one of those teams (Brooklyn Nets) averages less than 100 points per game. Also, all of the teams except for Dallas hold their opponents to under 100 points per game. So the Pistons will be facing much better offense and much stingier defense.
San Antonio is on a two game win streak after beating New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards. And while they are only 4-6 in their last 10, that is against some very good competition. Their six losses in that stretch are two at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies, one to the Portland Trailblazers, one to the Oklahoma City Thunder, one to the Dallas Mavericks and one to the Pelicans. Their two other wins were against the Houston Rockets (with Josh Smith) and Los Angeles Clippers. They are also doing this with some injury issues.
Kawhi Leonard has missed 13 games, 10 straight due to a hand injury, and will still be out for a few more weeks. Tony Parker has missed 13 of the last 16 games with a hamstring issue and remains questionable for tonight. This means that two of their top scores are likely out for this game. (UPDATE: Parker will start.) It is unlikely, though never out of the question with Popovich, that he will sit anyone for "rest" this evening as they have not played since Jan. 3 and do not play again until the 9th. However, he has sat Tim Duncan five times this year (Houston, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Portland and Dallas). But with the Phoenix Suns only 1.5 games back and having gone 8-2 over their last 10, I am not sure Pop wants to lose another game right now.
But I think the Pistons will be just fine. San Antonio has the second worst record of the teams we will face in the next four games but the best in our last six. If the Pistons are able to pull out a win here, especially if by a comfortable margin, then they will definitely have some momentum going into Dallas tomorrow. However, for that to happen, the Pistons have to be firing and running on all cylinders, especially on defense. But I am quite optimistic.
Players to Watch
Pistons: Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings has been playing outside his mind during the streak. What if I told you that he has shot 55.8-percent from the floor, 48.6-percent from distance (on seven attempts per game), to go along with 5.6 assists opposite two turnovers per game? What if I also told you that this included a 2-for-9 (1-for-5 from deep) night with only two assists and two turnovers? He is straight up ballin'!!! Now the question is: is this sustainable? Against Parker, that could be a problem.
Spurs: Manu Ginobili & Danny Green
Ginobili and Green could really expose Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks. Or, they may nullify each other. Ginobili and Green are consistent movers and are going to make KCP and Meeks run all over the place. The good thing is that is exactly what they do already. Ginobili and Green average a combined 10+ three point attempts a game at over a 37.8-percent conversion rate. This could be two very interesting matchups to watch.
Last Time We Met
February 26th, 2014 in San Antonio - Spurs win 120-110.
The Pistons were outscored in every quarter, but never by more than five. The Pistons had six players score in double figures and actually shot 50-percent from both the floor and from distance (only 10 attempts). However, the Spurs had eight players in double figures including Marco Belinelli who had 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting (4-for-4 from distance). Andre Drummond had a monster game of 16 points (7-for-12 shooting) and 17 boards to go with two blocks. Josh Smith had a pretty good night going 10-for-19 for 24 points along with six rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block. Oh, and three turnovers.
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
When: 8:30 PM EST, Tuesday, Jan. 6th, 2015
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Again, I think the Pistons will be fine. I honestly have good faith that they will win this one comfortably. However, I think it will end our streak of wins by 16 or more points.
Pistons 108, Spurs 95
Pistons: Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Singler, Monroe, Drummond
Spurs: Parker, Green, Belinelli, Duncan, Splitter
Spurs: Leonard (hand)
Does Jennings continue his swaginess ways?