'We lost it mentally': Spurs cool off Pistons

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — In the past couple of wins, the Pistons have been able to get a lead and pull away in the third quarter to build a cushion for a win.

There was no such surge on Friday night.

Instead of making a big run, the Pistons gave up a big run at the end of the second quarter, which dug them into a 19-point deficit. Against most teams, that’s a recipe for a tough, uphill climb.

Against the San Antonio Spurs, it’s asking for a loss.

BOX SCORE: Spurs 103, Pistons 92

The Spurs obliged, maintaining the big margin through the third quarter and holding on after a final Pistons surge and taking a 103-92 win at The Palace. It’s the Spurs’ fifth straight win in the head-to-head series. The last Pistons win at home was Feb. 10, 2014.

Tobias Harris led the Pistons (25-29) with 16 points and Ish Smith 15. Andre Drummond added 12 points and 15 rebounds and Reggie Jackson 12 points.

For Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, the critical juncture was in that six-minute span to end the first half. The Pistons closed the deficit to 36-30 after a jumper by Marcus Morris (10 points) but the Spurs started to connect from 3-point range, where they hit four in the final stretch and posted 64 percent (7-of-11) in the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers from Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 32 points.

“We really lost it mentally and gave in to frustration at the end of the second quarter. I told them that’s when the game was decided,” Van Gundy said. “If we take the other 42 minutes of the game, they probably still outplayed us, but we hung in there other than that.

“Those six minutes decided the game. It was controllable to some degree from our side, in that had we just hung with it mentally and not given into the frustration and doing what we were supposed to do. We could have hung in the game — but we didn’t and we didn’t.”

The Spurs (41-12) used a 10-4 run and took a 51-39 lead in the final minutes of the first half, with four 3-pointers by Danny Green (12 points) and didn’t let the lead get below double digits the rest of the way.

They had 17 assists on their 25 field goals and outrebounded the Pistons, 28-15, in the first half.

“We had a lot of assists (17) in the first half. The ball moved really well — better than it did in the second half. That was nice to see everybody get involved.” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We played one of the best halves that we played all year in that first half.”

The Pistons stayed close and got the deficit to 51-41 with 2:16 left in the half on a jumper by Morris but San Antonio finished the half with the last nine points, including six by Leonard — who had 15 in the first half — and a three-point play by Dewayne Dedmon (17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and added 17 rebounds), who was excellent and active in place of Pau Gasol (broken finger).

“When you miss two or three, you start feeling like you’re not going to do that great, but tonight, every guy on the team stayed on me about shooting,” Dedmon said. “That was the thing tonight: shoot the ball if you’re open.”

LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points and 11 rebounds) opened the third quarter with a turnaround jumper for the Spurs’ largest margin, 62-41, but Drummond responded with a lay-in and Jon Leuer (10 points) hit a baseline jumper.

But Leonard added a pair of free throws and a jumper to push the lead back to 21. Morris followed with a 3-pointer and Drummond a putback dunk. After another dunk by Dedmon, Leuer hit a jumper and Morris a putback jumper, to cut the lead to 14, but Leonard scored the next seven Spurs points to keep the Pistons at bay.

The Spurs finished the third quarter with an 83-66 lead and looked to put the game away, but the Pistons had another rally, starting the fourth with a 6-2 spurt, including a lay-in by Harris, a jumper by Smith and an alley-oop from Leuer to Drummond, to make it 85-72 at the 10:20 mark.

Aldridge had back-to-back jumpers, extending the lead back to 17.

The Pistons made a final run to cut it to 10 midway through the fourth. Stanley Johnson had a 3-pointer, Tobias Harris a jumper and Leuer a pair of free throws, along with a jumper by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a breakaway dunk by Drummond, to make it 95-85, with 5:24 remaining.

But Aldridge prevented the lead from getting under 10 with a 3-pointer at the 4:16 mark. The Pistons hovered around the 10-point margin in the final minutes, but Leonard hit another jumper with 56 seconds left to push the lead back to 12.

The Spurs finished at 50 percent (41-of-82) from the field for the game, with 47 percent (9-of-19) on 3-pointers. They also dominated on the boards, with a 52-35 rebounding margin. @detnewsrodbeard