Pistons' 'best defensive effort' garners win over Spurs
Detroit — The Pistons weren’t going to let it happen again.
In the first meeting this season against the Spurs, in San Antonio on Dec. 4, they had a nine-point lead in the third quarter and let it slip away.
No comeback this time.
The Pistons had one of their best defensive performances of the season, holding the Spurs to a season-low in points, taking an impressive 93-79 victory on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena, for their sixth win in the last eight games.
The victory also was their first over the Spurs since Jan. 6, 2015, breaking a six-game losing streak in the head-to-head series.
The Pistons (20-15) did it with their defense, holding Kawhi Leonard to 18 points and LaMarcus Aldridge to 15 — the only two Spurs starters who reached double figures.
“No question it was (our best defensive game). We just played so hard. The start of the game was the exact opposite of what we brought the other night in Orlando,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “What we talked about after the game is we set the tone in both games. When you let a team get rolling early, then even when you try to play better and harder, the confidence is falling.”
The reserve unit, led by rookie Luke Kennard’s season-high 20 points, turned things around from their 3-for-22 performance in Thursday’s loss at Orlando and went 10-of-24 from the field, sparked by Kennard’s 7-of-12, with 4-of-5 on 3-pointers.
Reggie Bullock buoyed the starters with a career-best 22 points, going 4-of-7 beyond the arc. It was needed, as the Pistons were short on wings, with Stanley Johnson (strained hip flexor) sitting out and thinning the bench corps.
Andre Drummond added 14 points, 21 rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Pistons, who have won four straight at home.
“It was a team effort; everybody we put in made a contribution. I told them in the locker room there were a lot of individual performances and I wasn’t going to single anybody out,” Van Gundy said. “It all stemmed from the defensive effort — that’s where everything came from. We played extremely hard and if you go out and put that much into the game, you can live with the results, one way or another.
“Our guys brought a collective intensity and effort to really go out and battle.”
The Pistons had a 7-2 spurt midway through the third quarter and pushed their lead to 57-47 at the 5:15 mark. Bryn Forbes (10 points) hit a couple jumpers in the final minutes to help the Spurs (25-14) trim the lead to 63-57 entering the fourth.
The Spurs got within four on a lay-in by Pau Gasol but over the next five-plus minutes, the Pistons put the game away, with an 18-6 run. Kennard had 10 points during the stretch, including a pair of 3-pointers. Tobias Harris (12 points and six rebounds and five assists) and Bullock added four points each, boosting the lead to 83-65 with 5:29 remaining.
Ish Smith (18 points and four assists) continued to look comfortable in his second start of the season, subbing for Reggie Jackson, who is out for 6-8 weeks because of a severe ankle sprain.
The Pistons only had 12 players dressed for the game, with Avery Bradley, Reggie Jackson, Johnson and Jon Leuer all out with injuries. That only made room for the reserves to make their mark.
“It’s an opportunity for players who haven’t played to be able to get an opportunity to go out there and show what they’re capable of doing,” Bullock said. “Obviously, everybody on this team is a great player. It’s all about when your number is called, being ready.”