SAN ANTONIO – First-year Spurs forward Rudy Gay had an eventful night Monday.
Starting for the first time this season, Gay had his first double-double as a Spur in the Silver and Black's 96-93 victory against the Detroit Pistons at the AT&T Center.
Gay finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who improved to 16-8. He capped his big night by preserving the victory with a block of a Tobias Harris 3-pointer in the final seconds.
The Pistons slipped to 14-9.
Two other San Antonio players, LaMarcus Aldridge (17 rebounds, 10 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (15/10), finished with a double-double. It's the first time the Silver and Black have had three players record double-doubles since 2014, when Tim Duncan, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard did it against Brooklyn.
"There is nothing one thing that is the difference, but I thought that we just kept playing for 48 minutes," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We talk about that all the time. It's a 48-minute game and we were down by nine a couple of times.
"I thought the guys, in a tough back-to-back, did a heck of a jog to hang in there, keep playing and trusting each other. We made some great plays down the stretch from a lot of people. A lot of people participate. It was a good, physical game and I am just really pleased with their effort. I thought they did a wonderful job."
Gay started for injured Kyle Anderson, who injured a knee in a loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday. Anderson had started the Spurs' first 23 games for Leonard, who is still rehabbing a quad injury.
"It's great just having another guy who can create," point guard Tony Parker said of Gay. "He had some very nice passing off the pick-and-roll. He knows how to play, good scorer and tonight he surprised with a nice pass at the end in the fourth quarter. It was really nice."
Gay, who is in his 12th NBA season, signed with San Antonio this summer after playing with Sacramento the previous four seasons.
Aldridge and Gasol led the Silver and Black's scoring with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Manu Ginobili had 12 points, and Green, Patty Mills and Davis Bertans each finished with 11.
"This was maybe our best win of the year," Parker said. "We played a very good team. They played very physical. They were hard on us and we had to dig deep. A lot of great performances from a lot of guys."
Parker had another solid game in his comeback, finishing with seven points, four rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes.
Pistons guard Reggie Jackson led all scorers with 27 points, but he had only seven in the second half, all in the fourth period, after getting 20 in the first two quarters.
Detroit led 73-69 after three quarters, but San Antonio scored the first six points of the fourth period on back-to-back three-pointers by Ginobili and Bertans to take its first lead (75-73) since the first quarter.
Clinging to a 94-93 lead, the Spurs caught a huge break when Harris fouled Aldridge under the basket before Gay whiffed on a 3-pointer from the top of the circle. Aldridge hit both free throws to put San Antonio up by three with 5.2 seconds left.
Green had some outstanding plays on both ends of the court in the fourth quarter. One of them came when he drained his third three-pointer of the night to cut Detroit's 84-79 lead to two with 7:07 left. Gay put the Spurs on top for good by completing a three-point play that put them up 88-86 with 3:39 remaining.
Green blocked a layup by Andre Drummond 20 seconds later, triggering a fast break that ended with Ginobili scoring on a reserve layup. The basket gave the Silver and Black a 90-86 lead with 3:11 left.
Green said blocking Drummond's layup was "pure luck. If he knew I was coming, I'm sure he probably would have dunked the ball, but I don't think he saw me (coming from the) weak side. When you're a guard, you can sneak up on a big sometimes and I got lucky."
The Spurs outrebounded the Pistons 51-42. The Silver and Black shot 42.7 percent (35/82) from the field and 45.2 percent (14/31) from the field. They moved the ball well, recording 30 assists on their 35 made field goals. The Silver and Black are 36-0 since the 2015-16 season when they finish with at least 29 assists.
Green, Mills, Ginobili and Bertans each finished 3 of 6 from the three-point line. Green also finished with three blocks.
"It was tough," Green said. "They are a very good team. They've been playing good basketball in the East and they are one of the top teams over there. They've been playing well against everybody.
"We knew it was going to be a full 48 minutes. We had to continue and grind it out. Hopefully, our experience would kick in and give us an edge or an advantage. Eventually, we just had to keep executing and trusting the system."
Harris (15), Stanley Johnson (14), Drummons (11) and Ish Smith (11) rounded out Detroit's double-figuring scoring. Detroit shot 41.2 percent overall (35/85) and 29.5 percent (8/27) from beyond the arc.
Jackson scored 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 2 of 3 from the three-point line, to help the Pistons take a 53-50 lead at the half. Detroit shot 47.8 percent overall (22/46) and 28.6 percent (4/14) from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.
Aldridge and Gasol led the Spurs' first-half scoring with nine points each. The Silver and Black shot 42.5 percent overall (17/40) and 63.6 percent (7/11) from the three-point line.