Trouble in Texas

Pistons lose road-trip finale as Ginobili leads San Antonio burst


The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

White Hot – A brilliant seven-minute run by Manu Ginobili in the first half essentially decided the game, which San Antonio won in a rout, 114-75. When Ginobili entered the Spurs led 12-10 and seconds later, before he’d played an offensive possession, Greg Monroe’s layup tied the game. When Ginobili came out early in the second quarter, the Spurs led 39-23. He scored 15 points in San Antonio’s 27-11 run and finished the first half with 17 points on just six shots – half of them 3-pointers and all of them makes. He didn’t score in the second half, but the damage was done. Monroe led the Pistons with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes.

BLUE COLLAR – Not much went right for the Pistons as they trailed by 20 at halftime and by 33 going to the fourth quarter, but Brandon Knight continued to play hard even as the deficit mounted and the bounces weren’t going his way. Knight, coming off games of 32 and 22 points since returning from the knee injury that cost him three games, finished with eight points, shooting just 3 of 14, but he had six rebounds and six assists. Jonas Jerebko, celebrating his 26th birthday, finished with 10 points and five rebounds.

RED FLAG – The Pistons were treading water late in the first quarter, enduring a 10-0 Spurs run to snap a 12-all tie, but had a chance to cut their deficit to seven when they forced a turnover and headed the other way with seconds left and numbers in transition. But Brandon Knight was called for a charge, wiping out Jose Calderon’s attempt at an open corner 3-pointer, and then rookie Khris Middleton fouled Manu Ginobili in the act of making a 3-pointer. That potential seven-point swing – a triple Calderon didn’t get the chance to take and the four points Ginobili scored – meant the Pistons trailed 32-19 after one quarter.

SAN ANTONIO – If San Antonio’s hottest pursuers in the West believe the Spurs vulnerable without Tony Parker over the next month, they might want to avoid watching the tape of their Sunday dismantling of the Pistons.

“It was a clinic tape,” Lawrence Frank said after the 114-75 hurting the Spurs applied. “You know what’s coming but we couldn’t stop it. We could have done a whole lot more to put more into the game to give ourselves a chance, but we didn’t. That’s a credit to the champs. That’s the blueprint. That’s what it looks like.”

Nobody has faced a worse confluence of factors here since 100 brave Texans tried to defend the Alamo.

The Spurs had a chip on their shoulder from surrendering 119 points to the Pistons last month in a loss at The Palace, San Antonio’s highest yield in regulation this season. They were still a little chapped about losing at home to lowly Phoenix last week. And they unquestionably wanted to send a loud message to Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers, close on their heels for the NBA’s best record and No. 1 seed in the West, that they’d withstand the loss of Parker just as they’ve survived the losses of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili previously.

Check, check and check.

Ginobili changed the game when he entered with five minutes left in the first quarter and both offenses sputtering. He scored 15 points in a seven-minute spurt, including a back-breaking four-point play to end the first quarter, as the Spurs went on a 27-11 run. They never led by less than double digits after that and kept expanding the lead through halftime and into the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t really come to fight,” Charlie Villanueva said. “That’s the best team in the league. Especially the fact we beat them the way we did back in Michigan, we knew they were going to come ready to play. They’re the best team in the league for a reason and we didn’t come ready to play.”

Ginobili scored all 17 of his points in the first half as the Spurs took a 20-point lead into halftime.

“Ginobili’s a great player – that goes without saying,” Will Bynum said. “They beat us – bad – tonight.”

“The guy’s a future Hall of Famer,” Frank said. “But still, we could do better.”

If the Pistons still had a puncher’s chance against a team that came into the game with a 23-3 home record when they were down 20 at the break, that chance evaporated in the first 82 seconds of the third quarter when the deficit went to 26. The first three possessions included two Pistons misses inside and one turnover – all converted into transition dunks or layups by the Spurs. And the rout was on. San Antonio led by 33 headed to the fourth quarter.

“They didn’t have to run a play and they scored six points – layup, layup, layup,” Frank said. “It’s just disappointing. That’s what championship effort is all about. Everything they do is hard. That’s a great learning lesson for all of us.”

It was a far cry from the 119 points the Pistons scored in a win last month at The Palace. The Spurs didn’t have Ginobili or Duncan that night, but Parker was brilliant and the Spurs – missing all of their big three, plus Parker – would win at Chicago just three nights later.

“We definitely are capable of doing better and we’ve shown it,” Frank said. “We’ve got to be locked into one thing and that’s got to be the team. We’ve got to be team first and that’s why San Antonio is a great model – they’re agenda free. The effort’s there on both ends. When you get your butt kicked like this, everyone across the board’s got to be better. It’s embarrassing.”