Upstart Pistons get big test in red-hot Spurs
One of the NBA's up-and-coming teams will have an opportunity to rise to the occasion.
The improving Detroit Pistons begin a demanding week in which they'll play host to the league's two best teams beginning with Tuesday night's showdown against the red-hot San Antonio Spurs (7 p.m. pregame, 7:30 tipoff on FOX Sports Detroit).
Detroit (21-16) nears the season's midway point in position for its first playoff appearance since 2009 and can move six games above .500 for the first time since February of that year. The Pistons will get to burnish their postseason credentials during a three-game stretch that'll have defending NBA champion Golden State visit the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday following a tough road matchup with Memphis.
"It's a tough week," coach Stan Van Gundy told the Pistons' official website. "It's a challenging week and that'll be good for us."
First up are the perennially powerful Spurs, who've exceeded even their own lofty standards in building a 33-6 record. They've won a season-high eight straight and 15 of 16 following Monday's 106-79 rout at Brooklyn.
The league's leader in scoring defense (89.4 points per game) and defensive points per possession, San Antonio is averaging 110.9 points and shooting 52.6 percent during the streak. The Spurs are outscoring opponents by 18.8 points per game over the run.
"It's consistency," forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. "There's no surprises. You know what you're going to get day in and day out, game in game out, so it just makes it easier to do your job for sure."
San Antonio is 6-0 in the second game when playing on back-to-back nights.
Detroit is rolling as well, recording a third consecutive win with Saturday's 103-89 blowout of the Nets that triggered the firing of coach Lionel Hollins and general manager Billy King's reassignment. The Pistons have averaged 111.0 points and allowed 89.3 over a three-game home winning streak.
Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond have led the resurgence with All-Star caliber seasons, part of a starting unit that's second to Golden State in scoring at 77.0 points per game. Both had big efforts against the Nets, with Drummond amassing 23 points on 11 of 15 shooting and 11 rebounds and Jackson compiling 23 points and eight assists.
There's a decided difference in bench production between the teams, with the Pistons receiving a league-low 24.2 points from their reserves and San Antonio second overall at 40.6. The Spurs scored 50 bench points against Brooklyn to support Aldridge's 25 and 17 rebounds.
"San Antonio's great about keeping their guys ready," said Pistons center Aron Baynes, who spent three seasons with the Spurs before signing with Detroit in July. "That's what we're trying to do here, as well - stay ready and whenever your number is called, come out there and do what you need to do."
The Pistons expect to have their entire starting five available after forward Marcus Morris sat out Saturday's win with knee tendinitis.
These teams have split the season series in each of the last three years, with the Spurs halting a two-game skid in Detroit with a 104-87 win on Feb. 11. The Pistons won 105-104 in San Antonio last January behind Drummond's 20 points and 17 rebounds.