Gameday at a glance
Spurs (25-11) vs. Detroit Pistons (19-15)
When, where: Saturday, 6 p.m., Detroit
Season series: Spurs lead 1-0
Last meeting: Spurs 96, Pistons 93, Dec. 4, AT&T Center
Spurs’ last game: Beat Knicks 119-107, Thursday, AT&T Center
Pistons’ last game: Lost to Magic 102-89, Thursday, Orlando
Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 7-3, won three
Pistons’ last 10 games, streak: 5-5, lost one
Notable: Danny Green (groin) and Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) are probable for Saturday’s game, and Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis) is out . . . Pau Gasol has finished with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in four consecutive games. Only Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has had a longer streak (5) this season.
Just when it appeared that the Spurs were starting to put their injury problems behind them, they lost another key player from their rotation Friday when backup forward Rudy Gay was diagnosed with bursitis in his right heel.
Gay, who has averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game, is expected to miss at least two weeks.
The Silver and Black have played only one game at full strength this season, beating Brooklyn 109-97 on the day after Christmas at the AT&T Center. Kawhi Leonard, who has played only five games this season after returning from a quad injury Dec. 12, was held out of Thursday night’s 119-107 win over the Knicks.
Leonard and Danny Green (tightness, left groin) are expected to be available when the Spurs (25-11) play at Detroit (19-15) on Saturday night in their last game of 2017. The Silver and Black beat the Pistons 96-93 on Dec. 4 in San Antonio, with LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Leonard missed San Antonio’s first 27 games of the season while he battled back from tendinopathy in his right quadriceps, and his playing time has been limited since his return. He has averaged 12.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 19 minutes in the five games he played.
As they have done throughout most of the season, the Spurs played well without Leonard in their win against the Knicks on Thursday. Aldridge and Pau Gasol combined for 42 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Aldridge led the Silver and Black in scoring with 25 points and Gasol recorded his fourth double-double of the season, finishing with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 11 rebounds. Gasol got his 10th career triple-double in a 108-99 road win against Sacramento, scoring 14 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists.
Aldridge and Gasol, who is in his second season with San Antonio, have developed into one of the top inside tandems in the NBA.
“He and LA play with each other a lot better,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, referring to Gasol and Aldridge. “Pau was new last year, so now he’s understanding the offense and what we are trying to do. He and LA have learned about each other and that’s what every team has to do when they get new guys, take some time to get that synergy, and I think they’re starting to do it pretty well.”
Gasol, a 7-footer who is one of the best passing big men in the league, has been consistent in getting the ball to Aldridge in the paint.
“We have developed a great connection, great chemistry, great understanding,” Gasol said. “Now LaMarcus can feed off my passing, especially from the high post, and that gives the opportunity to get deeper positions and go to work, and attack those smaller guys or lighter guys without a chance of double-teaming. It’s been great and we continue to build on it and continue to do it.
Aldridge, a power forward, is having an All-Star season and much of his success can be attributed to the chemistry he has developed with Gasol.
“He gives me easy looks at times when teams are doubling and digging and trying to be in my lap,” Aldridge said. “So knowing that if I go on the floor and stay on my guy, he’s a really good passer and I’m going to get the ball down there. It just makes me more eager to do it. He’s very unselfish and he always looks for it.”
The Pistons are coming off a 102-89 road loss to Orlando on Thursday. The game was their first since point guard Reggie Jackson sustained an ankle injury that’s expected to sideline him until after the All-Star break. Jackson led Detroit with 27 points in their three-point loss to the Spurs earlier this month, but he had only seven points in the second half.
Up next for the Spurs after Saturday’s game: vs. Knicks, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., New York
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