Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the San Antonio Spurs at the LCA. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Magic on Thursday, as are the Spurs after beating the Knicks.
The Spurs are still the Spurs. They feature a somewhat boring offense that ranks an effective but not impressive 12th in the NBA at 105.6 points per 100 possessions, which is combined with a stifling 3rd ranked defense that allows just 101.7 points per 100 possessions for the 5th best net rating in the NBA at +4.0.
Kawhi Leonard is back although he is playing limited minutes still, but he is still incredible with isolation scoring, shooting, and is one of the most effective singular defensive forces ever. LaMarcus Aldridge has had a comeback year and is carrying the offensive load by getting back to what he does well, he also remains a very effective defender. Danny Green remains one of the best 3 and D players in the NBA, Pau Gasol is old but can still score, pass, and make good defensive rotations. Tony Parker is also fairly recently returned from injury and isn't doing a ton but he has been mostly effective when asked to do things. Kyle Anderson is a very slow wing who has a gloriously goofy game of floaters and passing, almost like a skinny Boris Diaw but even slower and longer. Patty Mills is still an awesome backup who shoots and plays defense, Manu Ginobili will never die, Dejounte Murray is back into a small role off the bench with Parker back but he is still a long athlete. Bryan Forbes is a guard. Darrun Hilliard is also on the Spurs bench if the game becomes a blowout.
This team is as classic Spurs as it gets. Aldridge is quietly having as good a season as anyone in the NBA, and everyone else is just sort of doing their jobs so well that the Spurs win. It is so annoying. Can you imagine being a Spurs fan? You win 50 games every year like its nothing.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Gasol: Drummond has had some huge games against old man Gasol as he just totally outclasses him in the athleticism department and the Spurs don't really have a good answer. Gasol will give Drummond trouble with his shooting on the other end, but Drummond should have a clear edge.
Tolliver vs. Aldridge: I'm assuming Tolly will start like he did last time against the Spurs. In the last meeting he did a great job defending Aldridge and the Pistons will probably need that again. Also Tolly could use a bounce-back offensive game after a bad outing against Orlando.
Harris vs. Leonard: Since Tolly will get a lot of time for Aldridge, that means that it will be harder to have Stanley Johnson cover Kawhi. Tobias will have his work cut out for him on both ends, and if this gets too one sided for Leonard it could be a very long night for the Pistons.
The Bench vs. Not being awful: The Spurs have a good bench, and if the Pistons bench comes out like they did in Orlando they will get obliterated again. I think they will play better by virtue of having a few more shots fall, but if they struggle for a couple more games it may be time to worry about a non-Ish bench.
Pistons vs. Getting past the mental block: You don't want this to become a thing. Don't go on a losing streak immediately after losing Jackson. Win tonight just to avoid that narrative and everything, keep it out. Win tonight to make sure everyone knows that this team can fight on without him even if it isn't pretty.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre Drummond has a double double in the first quarter.
Pop decides to be cranky and rests some guys randomly.
Anthony Tolliver really is kryptonite for elite power forwards.
Run for the hills if:
The Spurs are keeping the Pistons out of transition. Oh wait, that is definitely going to happen.
Kawhi Leonard is totally outplaying Tobias Harris on both ends of the floor.
The Pistons bench looks lost again.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
The Bench has a comeback game.
Tobias Harris finally shows he can really compete with opposing elite wings.
The Pistons win a close game largely on the back of a heroic effort from Andre Drummond.
Pistons 95 – Spurs 94.
What do you think? Can the Pistons get out and run? Can Tobias go toe to toe with Kawhi?