Pistons’ tall order: Beat Spurs in San Antonio

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — With wins over the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pistons are looking to add another notch to their belt.

But to do so, they will have to do something no other team has done this season — beat the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio.

“We just look at it as a great opportunity. You go in and got the chance to be the first one in there (to win), and the first team to beat both they and Golden State,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “There’s certainly a reason you’re 28-0 (at home); it’s not by luck.

“They’re a great team and to have 50 wins already at this point in the season is phenomenal. We know we’ll have to play our best game to have a chance to win.”

The Pistons enter the nationally televised showdown on a four-game win streak, during which the team is averaging 105.8 points on offense and giving up 92.8 due to better ball movement and defensive effort.

Maintaining that level of success will be difficult against the Spurs, whose offense leads the league in field-goal percentage (49.1) and defense ranks No. 1 in points allowed (92.5) and 3-point percentage (32.2).

“Obviously, everything offensively is going to be huge challenge tomorrow night. They’re the No. 1 defensive team in the league by quite a bit,” Van Gundy said. “They make it tough to create open shots and move the ball, so it’s not going to be easy. We’ll need to play with great energy and great focus to make really solid plays.”

Although the Spurs have become less reliant on the Big Three of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan and lean more heavily on the trio of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green, the team’s key to its constant success is chemistry, something the Pistons are developing.

“(The Spurs have) a good mixture of veteran and young players. Those guys play together forever, so anytime a team knows each other like the back of their hand, it’s easy for them,” forward Marcus Morris said. “Guys know where to be at, everybody knows what to do, and everybody knows their role so no one is sticking out.”

While there’s plenty to learn from the Spurs, there’s even more to gain by playing — and possibly beating — them, as daunting as that task may seem.

“We have nothing to lose going there,” Morris said. “They’re the second-best team in the NBA recordwise, so it’s definitely going to be tough, but we beat the best team in the NBA once. It can happen if we come out and play well.”

Motiejunas upset

According to an interview with a Lithuanian newspaper that was translated on Reddit on Monday, the Rockets’ Donatas Motiejunas called his failed physical that led to the Pistons voiding a three-team trade “a joke.”

“The medical examination is a funny thing. The team doctor simply says whether you pass or don’t, although they may not even do any checks,” Motiejunas said, according to the translation. “Those 48 hours actually just let the team decide whether they want you or not. The Pistons announced I did not pass the medical, although I surely did pass it and played even before it. I just got screwed. The injury was a pretense to call off the trade. They changed their minds.”

Motiejunas went on to say that he would be consulting with his agent and lawyers about what to do next.

“The Pistons had access to my full medical history, so they shouldn’t have done what they did to me,” Motiejunas said. “They decreased my value. The medical examination I failed was a joke. The Pistons will have some explaining to do why they did not want the trade anymore. We will see what happens.”

Van Gundy said Tuesday he didn’t take the barb personally, considering the tough situation Motiejunas was in.

“We went through a very thorough process and we made the decision we made for the reasons we thought it was too much risk,” Van Gundy said. “I feel bad for him too because I understand his point in terms of his value and everything else. We felt we had to make the decision we made.

“Guys are going to have negative reactions to things like that, and I think you have to give them the room to have that. He has the right to have whatever reaction he wants to have.”

Injury report

Stanley Johnson (shoulder), Anthony Tolliver (knee), Jodie Meeks (foot) and Spencer Dinwiddie (ankle) were unable to practice Tuesday, leaving the Pistons with the same 11-man lineup as the past three games.

“(Johnson) is doing some stuff but … I don’t see any way he plays tomorrow night,” Van Gundy said. “(Tolliver) said yesterday the first four days went really quick and he felt a lot better, but then he sort of leveled off. He’s not close either.”



Pistons at Spurs

Tip-off: 8 p.m. Wednesday, AT&T Center, San Antonio

TV/radio: ESPN, FSD/WMGC 105.1

Outlook: The Pistons start a stretch with six of the next seven games on the road. They lost the first meeting, 109-99, on Jan. 12. …The Spurs (50-9) have won 11 of their last 12 games and give up the fewest points in the league (92.5). They are led by Kawhi Leonard (20.5 points, 6.7 rebounds) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16.9, 8.4).