Pistons take on Spurs before All-Star break

What: Detroit Pistons vs. San Antonio Spurs
When: 7:30, FSD
Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills MI

After a very good, very big win in Charlotte over the Hornets, the Pistons travel home to face the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the final game before the All-Star break. The Pistons sit 1.5 games back behind the eighth seeded Hornets and if the Pistons can eek out a win tonight over the Spurs, Detroit will head into the break only one game back of that eighth seed.

Detroit will also be looking for a season sweep over San Antonio after the Pistons got a 105-104 win last month at AT&T Center thanks to a Brandon Jennings buzzer beater. That was also the game the phrase “form a f**king wall” was announced by Stan Van Gundy. Let’s look at the keys to winning tonight at the Palace.

1.) The Spurs are coming off a historic victory in Indiana where coach Gregg Popovich earned his 1,000th career victory becoming the fourth head coach ever to reach that milestone and the second coach to do it with just one team. Considering it’s the final game before the All-Star break for both clubs, look for Popovich to reel in his team a little bit and get them ready for the stretch run in March and April. Popovich is notorious for managing his players’ minutes and resting them, so the Pistons should take advantage and put in 100% effort before taking 9 days off before their next game after the break.

2.) The Pistons have been up and down defensively the last three games. Against the Denver Nuggets, the team gave up 88 points for the entire game and they stifled Denver defensively. The next game they gave up 61 points in just the first half en route to giving up 112 in a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. This was then followed by last night’s defensive performance where they only gave up 78 points and confused the Hornets all night.

The Pistons have to string together consecutive good defensive performances and tonight provides that chance against the Spurs. Not like defending the Spurs is easy due to their depth and Kawhi Leonard coming back from injury, but the Pistons are more than capable to defend with guys like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and D.J. Augustin. They’ll have to take on the challenge.

3.) Win the battle down low. Tim Duncan is an all-time great, but he’s 38 years old now and Father Time is undefeated. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe need to bully Duncan and Tiago Splitter much like they did against Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller last night. Drummond averaged 15 points and 13 boards against San Antonio in the 2 games against them last season and in the Pistons win last month, he had 20 and 17 rebounds while Monroe had 17 points and 11 rebounds. If Drummond and Monroe even come close to that same production, the Pistons will win. Guys like Jodie Meeks, Anthony Tolliver, and Caldwell-Pope will play better at home in front of the Palace faithful than they did at AT&T Center.

Prediction: The real test will be if the Pistons show up defensively like they did in Charlotte. Stan Van Gundy is looking for consistency and he’ll be pounding defense into these guys. I think the Pistons come out with good energy and focus. The only Piston to play over 30 minutes last night was Monroe with 32 so they should be all rested up and ready to go. I like the Pistons to win in a close one 105-97.

-Ky Carlin

Twitter: @Ky_Carlin/@gettinbuckets91