The Pistons are going streaking!
Winners of their last four games - all of them convincing - the Pistons have worked themselves right back into the playoff conversation, leapfrogging Chicago to take control of the No. 8 seed, and remarkably, sitting only three games back of Miami and No. 4 seed.
Although the Pistons struggled mightily against the Spurs last time around, they have proven that they are capable of competing with the NBA's best. Which is fortunate, because that's precisely what the San Antonio Spurs are.
Last time the Pistons and Spurs faced off, I had this to say about the Spurs:
Largely overshadowed by the Golden State Warriors' pursuit of history, the Spurs have quietly put together a season that is nearly as impressive. At 33-6, the Spurs aren't chasing 72 wins like the Warriors, but a case can be made that they are every bit as good as the defending champs.
Take efficiency differential (offensive efficiency-defensive efficiency), which is widely considered to be a solid indicator of team quality. On average, the Golden State Warriors are 13.9 points better than their opponents over one hundred possessions (per NBA.com). That is crazy, stupid good.
But get this - the Spurs are actually better using this criterion. The Spurs are 15 points better over one hundred possessions, which is itself a historic number. For some context, remember those 72-win Bulls? Their efficiency differential was 13.8.
Very quietly, the San Antonio Spurs are having a historically dominant season.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, the Spurs continue to dominate. Going by their efficiency differential, the Spurs are still the NBA's best team (by about 1.3 points per one hundred possessions for those keeping track at home). And oh yeah, the Spurs haven't yet lost at home (28-0).
Keys to the Game
Contain Tony Parker...somehow: Last time we met, Tony Parker did whatever he wanted to, exposing all the shortcomings in the Pistons' team defense. As good as Reggie Jackson has been for the Pistons this season, his on-the-ball defense just has to be better - especially against players like the aging Parker, against whom Reggie should have important physical advantages. Of course, team defense isn't all on Reggie Jackson -- Pistons have had challenges all around -- but it starts with Reggie, and he'll have to be better at keeping Parker out of the paint for the Pistons to have a chance.
Stay hot from deep: On the most recent edition of the DBB podcast, I noted that even though the Pistons' offensive output has been inconsistent all season, one of the things they have done relatively well is generate open three-point shots. Over the last four games, the Pistons offense has generated 26.5 three point attempts per game (exactly their season average), but they've converted nearly 41 percent of those. Efficiency for the win(s). When the Pistons shoot like that, they can beat anyone.
Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver are not expected to play for Detroit, and Manu Ginobili is out for the Spurs.
Question of the Game
I normally include Three Keys to the Game, but I'm leaving the third to you, our amazing readers: What one thing do the Pistons need to do to steal one in San Antonio?