The Pistons seemed to have an advantage Monday night, with the San Antonio Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back. The Pistons were rested, having not played since Saturday.
The Spurs didn’t show any signs of being tired or being any worse for the wear after their loss in Philadelphia on Sunday. In fact, they looked to be more tuned in, getting hot from the field and the 3-point line.
They got control in the third quarter and rode that hot shooting to a 109-99 win on Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Josh Jackson had 15 points, Jerami Grant 14 points and Rodney McGruder, a surprise starter, added 13 points for the Pistons (10-29) who lost their fourth straight game. McGruder started for Wayne Ellington, who has been bothered by a groin issue.
In the third quarter, the Spurs shot 67% (14-of-21) from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. The Pistons didn’t seem to have an answer defensively, and although they shot 59% on field goals, they still were outscored, 65-55, in the quarter.
“You can’t let a team come in and shoot 70% if we’re trying to establish a defensive, play-hard culture,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s mental toughness for 48 minutes. You can’t do it for one (minute) and think you got it done.”
The Spurs (20-16) had a 10-point lead at halftime and the Pistons tried to rally with a 3-pointer by Saddiq Bey to open the third quarter, but the Spurs answered with two free throws by Jakob Poeltl and back-to-back baskets by Derrick White, with the second being a three-point play for a 66-53 lead.
Later in the period, the Spurs had another run, with a dunk by Devin Vassell (13 points), and an 8-1 spurt with a 3-pointer and a drive by Rudy Gay to push the lead over 20. They finished the quarter with a buzzer-beating heave by Lonnie Walker IV (11 points) for a 95-75 margin entering the fourth.
“We’re a cutting team, a driving team that’s got to get out in transition now,” Casey said.
The Pistons had an 8-2 run early in the final period, but the Spurs closed it out easily, with the last of four 3-pointers by Patty Mills, who finished with 14 points.
Grant had a nasty fall after colliding on a drive to the rim near the end of the third quarter. He looked to land on his hip, and he stayed down for a few moments, but he was able to return to the bench area; however, he didn’t return to the game.
“He’s fine; I think he could have come back,” Casey said.