Detroit Pistons see the level they’re trying to get to in loss to San Antonio Spurs

Detroit Free Press

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In some ways, the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Spurs have long been a model of what consistent success looks like in the NBA. The Pistons, in Year 1 of a full rebuild, are trying to get to that level.

San Antonio returned 14 players from last year’s roster and have historically benefitted from having season-to-season continuity. They haven’t made a midseason trade since 2014, when they sent Nando De Colo to the Toronto Raptors for ex-Pistons draft pick Austin Daye. If the season ended today, they would make their 23rd playoff appearance in 24 years. 

The Pistons only have one player remaining from last year’s roster, Sekou Doumbouya, and have already swung two trades this season. After a decade-plus without a playoff win, the franchise is aggressively remaking itself. GM Troy Weaver has assembled the second-youngest team in the NBA, and has taken plenty of lumps this season as it learns how to win. 

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That difference was on display Monday night, when the DeMar DeRozan-less Spurs handed the Pistons a 109-99 loss at Little Caesars Arena. The final score was closer than the game was; San Antonio led by 22 points with 3:15 to play, but the Pistons ended the fourth quarter with a 12-0 run. 

Detroit is still trying to establish its defense-first identity, and their woes on that end of the floor were clear. The Spurs took control in the second quarter by shooting 69.6%. The finished the game shooting 56.6% overall and 48% from 3. The Pistons struggled to keep them out of the lane all night. 

“Their culture is those guys have been there, they have a consistency with their roster,” Dwane Casey said after the game. “They’ve been with the program for years, so you know OK, you got one stop, you stop one penetration, here comes another one, he comes another one, here comes another one, and by the way, here’s a tip-in at the basket. That consistency and persistence is what you gotta fight to beat that team. (Gregg Popovich) has done it for years, coached against him in Seattle, Dallas, wherever, they’ve been the same. That’s what we’re trying to build here and that’s what we’re going to build here.” 

The loss was the Pistons’ fourth-straight and dropped them to 10-29. And it was their third-straight loss at home, where they had previously been a much stronger team. Before Feb. 25, they were 6-8 at LCA and had a positive net rating of 0.3. Since then, their home net rating has slipped to minus-1.6. 

Casey found a positive at the end of the game, though. The Pistons’ game-ending run was led by some of their youngest players — two-way guards Saben Lee and Frank Jackson, rookie wing Deividas Sirvydis, Sekou Doumbouya and Isaiah Stewart. Casey said he was proud of the way they competed. 

“We gotta make Little Caesars Arena a special place to play,” Casey said. “Teams can come in and think we got a night off, no. You gotta come in here and fight for every inch of the court when you come in here. That’s the culture we want to build and are gonna build.” 

No injury concerns for Grant

Jerami Grant left Monday’s game toward the end of the third quarter after a hard fall. He lost his balance in midair after two Spurs defenders contested his layup attempt, and landed hard on his hip. It took him several moments to stand up, and the Pistons called a timeout so the medical staff could help him. 

He was later seen on an exercise bike on the sideline. Casey said he was fine after the game, and could’ve come back and played. Casey wanted to give his young players some run. 

“I thought the young guys needed minutes and were competing their butts off at the end,” Casey said. “That’s one thing we gotta do. When things get hard, we gotta buckle up and put the seatbelt on and get back in the grind. That’s what the young guys did tonight. I was really proud of the way they competed. They had a 20-point lead or something like that, Pop had his starters in, and the young guys were still competing.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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