SAN ANTONIO – Spurs center Pau Gasol was asked Friday night if he's finding San Antonio to his liking.
"Yes," he said, "but I like winning more."
Asserting himself early, Gasol scored a season-high 21 points to lead the way as the Silver and Black ended their three-game home skid with a 96-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Gasol added nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocks. He scored 13 of his points in the first quarter, when the Spurs outscored the Pistons 28-26.
San Antonio improved to 6-3 and Detroit dropped to 4-5. The Silver and Black get back at it Saturday night with a game against the Rockets in Houston. Tipoff is at 7. Their next home is against Miami on Monday night.
The Spurs haven't dropped more than three in a row at home since January 2002, when they lost four consecutive games in their last season at the Alamodome. Since then, every other team in the NBA has had home losing streaks of at least five games.
Gasol said he liked the way the Silver and Black came out Friday night.
"Definitely much more aggressive from the beginning," said Gasol, who got his game-high 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting. "Established a good pace, and we needed to, as a team collectively, to get off to a good start because we haven't done that lately at home.
"You just can't afford to lose at home -- period. We just needed to snap out of that streak at home, and start playing with some fire."
Stuck in a three-game home skid for the first time since December 2014, the Spurs yielded 63 first-half points in a 101-99 loss to Houston on Wednesday night, and were torched for 73 points by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first two quarters last Saturday. The Clippers went on to a 24-point victory, 116-92.
The Spurs yielded 52 points in the first half Friday night, and 34 in the last two quarters.
"We played better defense," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "The defense is what we have to hang our hats on. We're working at it to get it better and better."
Asked why he thought Gasol played well in the win, Popovich said, "Because I think he got tired of losing."
The Silver and Black had four other players score in double figures -- Kawhi Leonard (17), LaMarcus Aldridge (14), Patty Mills (10) and Manu Ginobili (10). The game marked the return of point guard Tony Parker, who had missed the team's last three games with a sore right knee. He scored seven points and dished out four assists in 21 minutes.
"Pretty good, pretty good," Parker said when he was asked how he felt after the game. "Obviously, I had an injury after the first game against Golden State, and then tried to fight through it, then took a little more time than I thought in my right knee. Today is felt good, so hopefully I can get back in rhythm and help the team."
Andre Drummond led the Pistons with 20 points.
Detroit led 52-49 at the half, but the Spurs outscored the Pistons 26-15 in the third quarter to take a 75-67 lead into the final period.
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Spurs' 96-86 win over the Pistons:
Final: Spurs 96, Pistons 86. Pau Gasol scores a season-high 21 points for the Spurs, who improve to 6-3. The Pistons drop to 4-5.
Fourth quarter (5:54): Spurs 87, Pistons 76. Pau Gasol has 21 points for S.A.
Fourth quarter (8:55): Spurs 82, Pistons 71
End of third quarter: Spurs 75, Pistons 67
Third quarter (4:11): Tied at 65.
Third quarter (7:46): Spurs 60, Pistons 57. Kyle Anderson hits a 3-pointer. Timeout Detroit.
End of first half: Pistons 52, Spurs 49. Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge lead the Spurs with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Andre Drummond leads Detroit with 11 points.
End of first quarter: Spurs 28, Pistons 26. Center Pau Gasol leads the Spurs' scoring with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Pregame notes: Tony Parker started at point guard after missing the Spurs' last three games with a sore right knee. Kyle Anderson started at guard for Danny Green, who was held out to rest. Friday night's game against the Pistons is the front end of a back-to-back for the Silver and Black, who play at Houston on Saturday.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black seek to reverse troubling trend at home
Detroit Pistons (4-4) vs. Spurs (5-3)
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m., Friday, AT&T Center
Pistons’ last game: Lost 107-100, at Phoenix, Wednesday
Spurs’ last game: Lost 101-99 to Houston, Wednesday, AT&T Center
Notable: The Spurs haven’t lost four-straight home games since April 1997. Tony Parker, who has missed the Silver and Black's last three games with a sore right knee, will play Friday night, the team said.
SAN ANTONIO – Less than 10 games into their first season in 20 years without iconic power forward Tim Duncan, the Spurs already find themselves ankle-deep in problems.
While it’s still early in the 82-game grind of the NBA season – and no time to panic – the Silver and Black’s lackadaisical defense in the first halves of their last three home games has been an alarming trend for a franchise that long has taken pride in its defensive chops.
“We just have to get better,” said forward Kawhi Leonard, the league’s defensive player of the year the past two seasons. “I have to get better. We’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
Mired in a three-game home skid for the first time since December 2014, the Spurs yielded 63 first-half points in a 101-99 loss to Houston on Wednesday night, and were torched for 73 points by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first two quarters last Saturday. The Clippers went on to a 24-point victory, 116-92.
The Silver and Black hadn’t allowed that many points in consecutive first halves at home since April 1997, two months before San Antonio selected Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
The Spurs tightened up their defense in the second half against Houston, holding the Rockets to 22 points in the third quarter and 19 in the fourth. They had a chance to at least send the game into overtime but Kawhi Leonard, who scored a game-high 34 points, missed a three-foot floater on the last possession.
“We gave up 63 points in the first half and 38 points in the second half,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s what we’ve doing here at home, play a quarter or two of defense and a quarter or two of no defense. The consistency, in that regard, has not been good.”
The Silver and Black (5-3) will seek to start reversing that trend Friday night when they host the Detroit Pistons (4-4) at 7:30. Detroit is coming off a 107-100 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night. Friday night’s game is the front end of a back-to-back for San Antonio, which plays at Houston on Saturday.
A Pistons victory would saddle the Spurs with four consecutive home losses for the first time since January 2002.
The Spurs’ skid at home started with a 106-81 setback to Utah, which scored 38 points in the first quarter. San Antonio held the Jazz to 16 points in the second quarter, but the damage was done by then. The Silver and Black are No. 7 in the league in defense, but the stat can be misleading because they have allowed an average of 33.6 points in the first quarter in their last three games. That’s put them in a hole early and made it difficult to for them to come back.
“More than anything, bringing energy in the first quarter I think is going to be huge,” backup forward David Lee said Thursday, looking ahead to the game against Detroit. “When we’ve needed to buckle down and get stops toward the end of games, we’ve done so. I think it’s about having that kind of urgency early in the game.”
Houston point guard James Harden became the first player to record a triple-double at the AT&T Center in Wednesday night's game, finishing with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists.
Point guard Tony Green, who has missed the Spurs’ last three games with a sore right knee, will play Friday night. Guard Danny Green (rest) will not play. Green played Wednesday night for the first time this season after sustaining a contusion in his left quad in the preseason, scoring eight points in 26 minutes. He also had three rebounds, two assists and four steals.
Next up for the Spurs: at Houston, Saturday, 7 p.m.