Pistons Prepare for the “Champs”

Jan 6, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) shoots the ball as Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) defends during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 6, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) shoots the ball as Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) defends during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /


  • Teams: San Antonio Spurs (33-19) at Detroit Pistons (21-32)
  • Date: February 11
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

Get in the Game

The Detroit Pistons, fresh off a win against the Charlotte Hornets, host the defending champions tonight, absent championship glare.

Should that be construed as a slight at the champs?


The truth is that fans and media members alike have spent far more time discussing the ascension of the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks, coupled with LeBron James’ renaissance in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.

Heck, an argument could be formed that the Oklahoma City Thunder’s quest for a playoff spot trumps whatever it is that’s happening in San Antonio. Typically, one would point to the fact that the Spurs have always failed to generate interest because their stars are…uninteresting.

The team consistently wins north of 50 games, and it does it in ways that rarely leads to fanfare. Indeed, the Spurs operate with clockwork consistency, and some might view that as boring. Extra pass here, cut backdoor there and an open three is what one tunes to watch when San Antonio is playing; and that’s just not for everyone.

However, there’s an added component this time around, and it might be cause for fear in San Antonio. The Spurs look like they’ve lost the eye of the tiger. Winning the 2013-14 title might be the greatest and worst thing that’s happened to them.

Simply put, the team doesn’t look quite the same. Capturing the crown last season helped avenged a heartbreaking loss in the 2013 NBA Finals, but it’s entirely possible that it robbed the unit of its edge. Everything looks a half-step slower, and as a result, the same applies to the Spurs.

Don’t believe in my eye test? Let’s look at the numbers then.

Last season, San Antonio outscored teams by 8.1 points per 100 possessions, a gaudy figure that actually is superior to this year’s Hawks team (7.2 points per 100 possessions). As a reference point, Atlanta has the second best record (43-10) in the sport.

Flip to this campaign, the Spurs are outpacing teams by 4.0 points per 100 possessions, a number that’s practically on par with the Houston Rockets (3.8 points per 100 possessions). There’s no shame in matching a squad that currently resides in the No. 3 spot of the Western Conference standings. After all, the West is a bloodbath waiting to happen, where every team has near-identical records.

Thus, all of the games count.

But in the case of the Spurs, they look more like a team in the West as opposed to one destined to win it. San Antonio looked dominant throughout last season, but that simply hasn’t been the case this year.

Perhaps the injuries of Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard set the Spurs back, but it’s worth reminding everyone that San Antonio rested players on several occasions last year. An argument could be made that time missed to heal is equivalent to whatever rest schedule head coach Gregg Popovich would have utilized.

As a result, one must wonder if this is San Antonio’s last run as presently constituted. The mileage on Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili may have finally caught up with the team, and it’s making the 82-game grind a little harder to digest for the old heads.

Then again, maybe this is all Popovich’s plan.

Much has been made about San Antonio’s ability to turn it on during the Rodeo Road Trip over the years despite the fact some even believe it could be a myth. The road trip normally starts a little before the All-Star break and concludes well after it.

The Spurs have been known to emerge as a juggernaut at its conclusion, and some of the data corroborates that.

Last season, San Antonio outscored teams by 9.9 points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break on its way to the title. The year prior, the Spurs weren’t as formidable (2.6 net rating), and yet they made it to the Finals.

During the 2011-12 campaign, Popovich’s bunch managed a 12.8 rating after the mid-season classic and was eliminated in the Western Conference finals by the one team with their number—Oklahoma City.

What does it all mean?

Maybe, just maybe San Antonio is playing possum. Popovich tends to pace his teams, and the Spurs’ lack of dominance so far this season might be the product of such strategy.

Team to beat or about to get beat?

The Rodeo Road Trip has already begun, and San Antonio has split its first two games. It continues tonight in Detroit, and by the time the contest is over, a clearer picture will be painted as it pertains to where Duncan and Co. are headed.

Read about the Spurs

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