The San Antonio Spurs have been a team in transition.
They’re young, kind of interesting, and retooling on the fly. It’s not the old guard you’re used to, but it’s a group that’s working—they’re a playoff team and somehow leading the Southwest Division. Facing the Detroit Pistons without injured Demar DeRozan and disgruntled LaMarcus Aldridge, it looked like an even match-up on paper.
It was not.
Jakob Poeltl dominated on both ends and the Pistons couldn’t stop a nosebleed until the Spurs took their foot off the pedal in the fourth as they fell 109-99 on Monday night.
The tank rolls on, sure, but it was a disappointing effort from Detroit overall. The defense was horrendous. I mean, the Spurs shot over 70% (!!) in the second quarter. DeJounte Murray (19 points, 10 rebounds) had his way with the guards while Poeltl had his way down low.
Poeltl is a nice player, very San Antonio in the way he plays, but it felt like the most dominant 14-point, 12-rebound, 4-block effort I’ve seen against Detroit this season.
Jerami Grant, who’s night ended with a hard fall in the third, and Rodney McGruder were the only consistent sources of offense for the Pistons—which says it all. McGruder scored 13 points in a spot start and while he’s a master of none, I’ll say this: it’s nice having a vet like him around. When you need him to step up, he’s ready. When you want to go young, he’s not going to have a tantrum about going back to the bench.
Those guys are important in a rebuild.
Some of the late-Dumars era teams had the same kind of guys... but there were 5-6 of them and they played huge roles. McGruder is the only one now, and it just goes to show how much better things are now for this franchise than those Tracy McGrady/Chris Wilcox days.
It was a forgettable night for the other Pistons wings. Saddiq Bey was very quiet through three quarters, attempting just three shots in 22 minutes. He finished -17. Josh Jackson was similarly bad from +/- perspective at -19, but hustled his way to 15 points despite those scoring numbers not matching the eye test.
Plus-minus is dumb, I know, but sometimes it feels accurate. Frank Jackson was +3 in a rare opportunity, and it felt like he made an impact. Detroit got slammed when its other two-way player, Saben Lee, was on the court, but the rookie had six dimes, like this one to set up McGruder:
Mason Plumlee and Isaiah Stewart weren’t terrible, but their play had a big hand in the team being dominated by Poeltl. Heck, even old man Rudy Gay turned back the clock for the Spurs and finished with 10 points.
Detroit is just in a weird place right now.
Though he wasn’t shooting the ball well this season, the Pistons spacing and shooting is far worse without Svi Mykhailiuk. The rotation is in flux as Dennis Smith Jr. remains out. The backcourt of the immediate future, Killian Hayes and Hamidou Diallo, will eventually get its shot—hopefully sooner than later—which adds another wrench.
But things will open up with the trade deadline approaching as well. It’s possible that Plumlee, Delon Wright, Wayne Ellington (who sat tonight) and, perhaps, Sekou Doumbouya are on the move by the end of the month.
The Pistons have a long way to go this season. It’s about the tank, yes, but who will be commanding it on a nightly basis seems to be shaping up to be an ever-changing game of musical chairs.
One last stat, because it made me lol:
Deividas Sirvydis was +12 in 3 minutes. GOAT.— Brady Fred (@Brady_Fred) March 16, 2021