The Detroit Pistons have taken a different path to victory in the past two games.
Their success this season has often been predicated on 3-point shooting. They have averaged 39.3 percent on long-range attempts in victories, and 29.3 percent in losses. However, during lopsided home wins over Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers, they shot just 9 of 38 (23.7) on their triple tries.
They also often had to overcome lethargic third-quarter starts, getting outscored by 28 points in that quarter coming into this week. But they outscored the Sixers and Lakers by a combined 29 points in the third.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” center Andre Drummond said. “We came out mentally and physically prepared to play (in the third).”
Detroit will try to keep those trends going when it plays a much tougher opponent, San Antonio, on Friday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
With their long-range shooting failing them, the Pistons have relied on their power game and defense. They have scored 136 points in the paint the last two games and forced 34 turnovers, scoring 35 points off them.
Detroit (25-28) led by nine at halftime against the Lakers on Wednesday, then blew the game open by outscoring the visitors 36-20 in the third.
“I thought that we defended in the third, that’s what I really liked,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said of the 121-102 win. “Then, we pushed the ball in transition very well and also off of our defense. It was not a good perimeter shooting night for us. We even missed a lot of layups inside, but 32 assists, plus-11 on the glass, 70 points in the paint, so I thought we did some good things.”
The Lakers made eight of their first 10 field-goal tries but Detroit’s defense limited them to 38.2 percent shooting the rest of the way.
“You don’t want to start like that,” point guard Reggie Jackson said. “Who do we got coming in here? I don’t think we want to let (the Spurs) start 8 of 10. It’s going to be a lot harder to stop them. We’ve got to be better from the tip.”
San Antonio (40-12) is in the midst of an eight-game road trip. It lost to Memphis on Monday on the first leg of the journey, then bounced back with a 111-103 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The Spurs were up just two points in the fourth quarter before taking command with a 16-5 spurt.
“We finally realized it was money time and we better play a little bit of defense the way Philly was,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in his postgame press conference. “We actually got into people, played aggressively, made some things happen. We were able to push it and get some open shots and we knocked them down. But we didn’t play a good 48 minutes. We played a good three, four or five minutes.”
Forward Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 32 points after missing the Grizzlies game with a quad contusion.
“I thought (the Sixers) outplayed us in a lot of ways,” Popovich said. “Their grit, their hustle, their denying, the defensive aggressiveness was great, but we’ve got a couple of guys who made a difference, like Kawhi. He’s tough to handle.”
The Spurs have won the last four meetings with the Pistons, including a 96-86 victory at San Antonio on Nov. 11. San Antonio center Pau Gasol had a game-high 21 points that night. He is on the mend from a fractured left finger suffered last month and is the only player expected to miss Friday’s game.