There’s an old baseball saying – “Spahn, Sain and pray for rain.” The 1948 Boston Braves weren’t a very good team top-to-bottom, but they had two star starting pitchers: Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain. When those two started, the Braves would probably win. Otherwise, they had to pray for rain, giving Spahn and Sain more opportunities to start.
The Pistons don’t typically have a Spahn or a Sain. Remarkably, they gave themselves the upper hand in two major areas against the Spurs tonight, anyway. That left the Pistons praying for rain to complete a win over San Antonio, which holds the NBA’s best record.
Unfortunately, they hit a drought.
The Pistons worked the two advantages they had tonight – Will Bynum’s shiftiness and John Kuester’s gameplan for defending Tim Duncan – but everything else* dried up in a 100-89 loss. Frankly, the Pistons had no business staying close. The Spurs haven’t lost to a team with a record as poor as the Pistons’ all season.
But Bynum (21 points on 9-of-13 shooting) worked his way around the Spurs’ excellent half-court defense. He found paths to the basket and blasted through them before San Antonio could rotate. He dribbled all over the court, and with an ability to stop on a dime, he pulled up for under-control jumpers while Tony Parker leaned the other way.
And Kuester wisely allowed Tim Duncan freedom to shoot from outside, keeping Detroit’s bigs in the paint to rebound Duncan’s misses. Duncan shot just 3-of-10 – taking shots from 7, 20, 0, 16, 7, 5, 22, 20, 17, and 9 feet. That’s far from a typical distribution for him. And the Pistons rebounded six of Duncan’s seven misses. Credit Kuester for scheming away one of the Spurs’ biggest offensive advantages.
Still, Spahn and Sain – or Bynum and Kuester, in this case – couldn’t make up for the desert that was the rest of of the team
*Greg Monroe (14 points and 13 rebounds) is exempt. But he’s quickly becoming old dependable for the Pistons. He’s going to get 10-and-10 or so every game.
The Pistons’ top offensive threats couldn’t make shots. Four of the Pistons’ five leaders in attempts combined to shoot 16-of-50.*
Detroit’s bigs couldn’t prevent DeJuan Blair (18 points and 12 rebounds) from dominating Detroit inside. I take that back. Joe Dumars could have stopped him by drafting him instead of creating the “DaJuan … Summers” fakeout in the second round of the 2009 draft. But no current Piston could stop Blair tonight.
Bynum couldn’t keep Tony Parker (19 points on 7-of-8 shooting and seven assists) out of the paint.
The Pistons couldn’t rotate quick enough to keep Manu Ginobili, Matt Bonner, Ginobili (again), Richard Jefferson and Steve Novak from hitting 3-points down the stretch.
In the end, this game was about what the Pistons couldn’t do, not what they could. But let’s talk about what the Pistons have done.
Entering the game, everyone game them a shot. They’re no longer pushovers, and they fought San Antonio most of the night. Detroit is building credibility, and tonight’s loss only adds to it. A win would have been nice, though.
If only it had rained.