Red-hot Pistons offense sputters as desperate Spurs pocket a win
Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 105-93 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center
A LITTLE HELP – The best part of the night for the Pistons didn’t happen in San Antonio, where their streak of strong offensive games came to a grinding halt. It happened in Brooklyn, where the Nets lost to Washington to prevent them from pulling any further ahead of the Pistons in the race for the No. 6 playoff spot. And it happened in Charlotte, where the Hornets lost to Houston to keep the Pistons from losing any ground to the team directly behind them. Only Dwyane Wade’s heroics – he hit two 3-pointers in the last 15 seconds, the last a banked shot at the buzzer – kept it from being a clean sweep of misfortune for their fellow contenders for the last three playoff spots. The Heat gained a game with their escape act, though the Pistons remain two games ahead of them. Strong starts have been a hallmark of the Pistons during their 7-1 streak – their plus-59 differential in first quarters for the month ranked third in the NBA – but they trailed by five at San Antonio after a quarter. Then it got worse. They fell behind by 12 when they missed 12 of 13 shots to open the second quarter, but a 17-8 close to the first half pulled them within three. They fell behind by 14 late in the third quarter but were within two with five minutes left when the Spurs used a 9-0 run to take control. San Antonio played its first game since finishing their annual rodeo trip with a 1-7 record, its only win at Memphis and concluding with losses at New York – where the Knicks had lost their last 18 games – and Brooklyn.
OFFENSE STALLS – The Pistons came into the game with the NBA’s No. 1 ranked offense over their 7-1 stretch. Four of those games came against teams with bottom-five defensive ratings (New York twice, Atlanta and Washington) but the other four came against top-10 defensive teams (Boston, Denver, Miami, Indiana). San Antonio – a team that’s typically in the top 10 in defense – is much closer to the first group than the second. The Spurs came into the game ranked 23rd defensively. The Pistons, meanwhile, came into the game averaging 115.9 points a game in February, their highest-scoring month since November 1987 when they still called the Silverdome home. But they shot just 36 percent and scored just 21 points in the second quarter and 19 in the third. The Pistons were good from the 3-point arc, finishing 15 of 38 for 39.5 percent. But they couldn’t get anything going near the rim, shooting 21 of 51 in the paint and 21 of 62 (33.9 percent) inside the 3-point arc.
BENCH RESPONDS – After two superb games from their bench, the Pistons didn’t get much going at all in the first half. It had to encourage Dwane Casey, though, to see the unit turn it around in the second half as the driving force of a comeback from 14 points down late in the third quarter. When Casey sent Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin back into the game with 7:46 to play, the Pistons had cut their deficit to five. Luke Kennard, who’d scored 36 over the last two games, finished with eight after scoring four in 14 first-half minutes. Langston Galloway, coming off 17- and 13-point outings in wins over Miami and Indiana, went scoreless in 12 first-half minutes but scored 11 in the second half. Ish Smith scored seven of his nine points in the second half. The second quarter was especially a struggle as the Pistons got only one free throw and missed all eight of their shots over a span of six possessions to start the quarter before Dwane Casey was forced to get a timeout and rush Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Wayne Ellington back into the game. Thon Maker and Zaza Pachulia combined to miss all eight of their shots, though Pachulia finished with five rebounds in nine minutes.