The last time the Spurs and Pistons met, Detroit pulled off a surprising upset at home, beating San Antonio by double digits and putting an end to their 11 game winning streak. It’s probably not wise to suggest a similar outcome this time around for the Pistons — especially on the road against the team with the NBA’s best record — but they do have something working in their favor.
Tony Parker is sidelined for potentially the next month of action with an ankle sprain. Parker had been having the best season of his career, inserting himself into the discussion for MVP and even starting a few arguments (mostly between Spurs fans and everyone else) over whether he was the league’s best point guard. Manu Ginobili will likely replace most of Parker’s duties as a distributor, which he is more than capable of handling, but the Spurs’ point guard depth is incredibly suspect. Gary Neal is doubtful for tonight’s game, which leaves San Antonio with rookie Nando De Colo, Patty Mills, and Cory Joseph as their only options. De Colo has upside, but is still adjusting to the NBA game and turns the ball over more than Brandon Knight as a point man. Mills can shoot, but offers virtually nothing else, and Joseph is basically an 11th or 12th man. Jose Calderon and Will Bynum need to take advantage of this mismatch if Detroit wants to make this game even remotely competitive.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, that’s the only positional advantage they’re going to have. Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, and Kawhi Leonard are considerably better than Detroit’s wings, and Tim Duncan is superior to any player the Pistons will have on the floor. The Spurs should have a huge advantage in bench play, as well, with Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, Mills, and Matt Bonner. The gap in coaching acumen between Gregg Popovich and Lawrence Frank is too depressing to go into detail about, but needless to say it’s vast.
The lack of Parker on the floor gives the Pistons the tiniest bit of an opening, and anything can happen on any given night in the NBA (like, say, the Phoenix Suns beating the Spurs in San Antonio last Wednesday), but it’s probably best not to get our hopes up for this one. There are a lot of potential timelines for a game like this, let’s just hope we don’t get the one that ends with Jose Calderon losing his arm, Jason Maxiell dying his hair, Andre Drummond eating a gnome, and Jonas Jerebko turning heel.