San Antonio makes lone trip to Detroit



  • Teams: San Antonio Spurs (39-11) at Detroit Pistons (18-32)
  • Date: February 8, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The San Antonio Spurs will be making their lone appearance at the Palace of Auburn Hills tonight and might be without the services of Tim Duncan (knee, ankle) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) when they try to stretch their 11-game winning streak to 12.

Let’s make this clear: the Spurs are not better without Duncan and Ginobili, but boy are they still impressive and fun to watch.

What San Antonio lacks in terms of highlight packages, they make up for with simple and yet beautiful basketball execution.

It’s in fact almost comical how the Spurs attack their opponents’ weaknesses.

Where they might force one team to defend multiple options on a given play, they might toy with a poor defensive squad simply by running their basic stuff and still confuse the heck out of their rotations.

For instance, Tony Parker will run a simple pick-and-roll with Tiago Splitter and hit him on the roll for an easy basket at the rim. Per MySynergySports, the Spurs’ roll men are converting 56 percent of their field goals in the pick-and-roll, which typically results in opposing teams shading their defenders to the paint to converge on the rolling big man to take away that option.

But San Antonio is smart.

If teams converge in the paint, Parker will pass the ball to the player at the wing who will then swing it to the open player for the corner 3-pointer (his man was the one that crashed down the paint to help out on the big man that rolled to the basket).

But NBA teams are smart and make adjustments right?

Well, Greg Poppovich teams are usually a step ahead of their opponents.

Should opponents alter their defensive coverage of the pick-and-roll and decide to still send the same perimeter player to converge on the roller in the paint, the player defending the first pass recipient (the player on the wing that receives the first pass from Parker and swings it to his teammate in the corner) will have to make the decision of helping a little in the paint and then running back out to his man or the player in the corner depending on which is the better shooter.

But again, San Antonio’s coaching staff is smart enough to always put players on the court that have the ability to handle the ball a little but more importantly shoot it. Thus, whichever perimeter player ends up with the ball open behind the arc is typically a good if not great open shooter. Indeed, according to MySynergySports, Gary Neal and his teammates convert 39.5 percent of their spot up 3-point field goals.

And just for good measure, Tony Parker might keep the ball and go all the way to the basket or take the open mid-range jumper.

As scary as this type of offensive execution is for the 29 other teams in the Association, we are only talking about their pick-and-roll options here. The Spurs have a host of other sets and plays that they will run specifically to pick on an opponent’s weakness.

Take the Minnesota Timberwolves as an example.

Pop had Parker bring the ball up the court, pass it to Boris Diaw, who ran the offense from the top off the floor. Then, Tony Parker essentially became the Boston version of Ray Allen; running Ricky Rubio through screens and dictating when and where he wanted to catch the ball for an open jumper.

This type of impressive offensive execution is part of the reason that San Antonio owns the fourth best offensive efficiency in the league, scoring 106.7 points per 100 possessions. And keep in mind, even when the Big Fundamental has been either in street clothes or on the bench, the Spurs have still produced 105 points per 100 possessions according to’s advanced stats tool.

The Pistons will have their work cut out for them tonight and will have to not only play hard, but also play smart to make things difficult for the road team and possibly pull out the victory.

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Statistical support provided by