SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs faced two second-half runs by the Pistons, but staved off both and won 106-91 without three key playmakers.
"It's always a good sign, sometimes you don't," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said regarding that ability to weather the storm. "When you do, it adds to your experience, makes you feel more confident, and you kinda learn that an NBA game is a long time, and you've gotta go out and play and keep on truckin'."
Derrick White led the way with 26 points and 8 assists, adding 7 boards, a steal and 3 blocks. His floater was on point, and he had to take a bigger on-ball role with DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray out for this one.
"Dejounte steals a lot of the rebounds," he joked, deadpan. "And DeMar was out so I mean, there were a lot of plays that I felt like I had to step up and pick up their slack."
He said he'd been disappointed in his floaters lately, and focused on hitting the close ones tonight. As far as getting back to where he was in the Orlando bubble, and where he wants to be, he's getting close.
Jakob Poeltl had his twelfth double double of the season with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks. After the game he spoke about the role he plays on the court for this team, as well as his recent improvement from the free throw line where he's struggled all season. He made 5-6 from the stripe in this one, making 75% in his last ten games after starting the season under 40%.
"Still doing the same things like we've been working on for a while now," he said. "Sometimes you go through a little stretch where it doesn't work as well, and right now it's feeling pretty good."
Lonnie Walker IV made the most of his start and a higher number of opportunities with the ball scoring 18 points and hitting 4-5 from deep, with 3 nice assists. Keldon Johnson and Rudy Gay joined them with double-figure scoring, though they didn't shoot as efficiently.
The Spurs are now back to .500, and a win over the Pelicans on Saturday would push them one step closer to locking up a playoff spot.
PHOTOS: Spurs beat Pistons 106-91 behind big games from White, Walker, and Poeltl
Detroit opened the final period on an 13-2 run to cut their deficit down to one.
San Antonio's bench unit struggled to both get stops and get buckets, and Pop called timeout with 8:42 to put his best available guys back in to protect that lead.
Lonnie Walker IV missed on the drive, but Poeltl was there fresh off the bench to tip it in. The next trip down, Poeltl generated an extra chance with an offensive board and whipped it out to Walker for his fourth triple of the game, giving him 18 points and putting San Antonio up six, which became eight when the officials took a bucket away from Detroit.
Derrick White drained a stepback three, then hit free throws, then passed to Keldon Johnson for an open triple after a vicious block by Poeltl. That made it a 13-1 run to more than answer Detroit's, putting San Antonio back up 15 with four minutes to play.
The Pistons resorted to fouling Jakob Poeltl, and he hit free throws. Keldon Johnson came down for a mean-spirited slam dunk, hammering the final nail in Detroit's coffin before Pop brought the mop unit in.
His team won 106-91.
Lonnie Walker IV drove from one side of the defense to the other until he got switched onto a big man, then he drove in and kicked to Derrick White for an open corner three.
Jakob Poeltl hit two free throws, making him 15-20 in his last 11 games after struggling mightily to start the year.
Walker drove and kicked to Luka Samanic, who drove and dumped it to Poeltl for a dunk. Samanic earned and won a jump ball, Keldon Johnson ripped a steal aggressively, and Derrick White hit another couple of floaters to put the Spurs up 68-53.
Walker ran pick and roll, drove toward White, and dished it to him on the wing. White pumped and drove back toward Walker as he retreated to the arc, occupying his defender and giving it right back for a sweet three. It was the second time Walker got an open triple like that in the contest.
Detroit made a pair of baskets, though, and Pop called timeout with an 11-point lead. Saddiq Bey hit a three and tweaked his ankle on a closeout by Rudy Gay that was ruled a flagrant foul. It turned into a six-point play for Detroit, part of a 13-0 run to cut San Antonio's lead down to just three.
Gay finally ended the run with a corner three off a short-roll pass from Drew Eubanks. White drove and eurostepped in for free throws, then Eubanks hit a pair, pushing it to a 7-0 run for the Spurs to give them a 10-point lead.
White hit what felt like his 50th floater of the game, and San Antonio led 82-70 heading to the fourth behind his 19 points.
Detroit opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 31-26 lead. San Antonio answered out of the timeout with a 6-0 run themselves, with Drew Eubanks getting a few layups and Devin Vassell hitting an in-between shot.
Lonnie Walker came in and immediately split two defenders and hit a mid-range jumper. Then he drove to the basket, occupied two defenders, leapt, and dumped it over the top to Jakob Poeltl for an easy jam.
Derrick White drove in and hit a floater, and Detroit called a timeout to pause the 12-2 San Antonio run down 38-33. It didn't help.
Luka Samanic shut a Piston down in the post, Derrick got the steal, and Luka wound up with an easy transition layup.
Jakob Poeltl continued to block and impact attempts at the rim, and White hit another floater to make it a 16-2 run. After Detroit scored two in a row, Pop called timeout up 42-37 with 4:30 in the half.
Keldon Johnson was attacking the rim before he even got the ball, and even though he seemed to lose control of it mid-air, he finished the scoop layup.
Poeltl got two offensive boards to extend the same possession, and Tre Jones found him for a dunk to finish it. Jones ran the same pick and roll the next time down and hit a floater.
Rookie Killian Hayes hit a three for the Pistons, then got three the old fashioned way.
Poeltl drove in from the top, then handed Rudy Gay a free baseline jumper that he swished. Late in the shot clock, Jones hit Keldon on the wing for a pure triple, extending the lead to San Antonio's biggest at 9.
White drove again and drew free throws. The Pistons had the ball with the shot clock off, but turned it over early and Gay finished a feed from Johnson to beat the buzzer and give San Antonio a 57-47 lead at halftime.
San Antonio's offense struggled out of the gate, missing their two best playmakers in DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray.
The Spurs went scoreless for the first two minutes before Lonnie Walker IV drove to his left and scooped in a tough finish.
On a broken possession, he bailed the Spurs out with a deep triple.
Jakob Poeltl blocked a shot and made an open 10-footer. He caught it on the block as he rolled, gave a quick pump fake and scored when the defender bit.
Walker drove to the rack a few more times, once out of triple threat and the other time in transition. He beat his man and earned free throws both times, but he missed the second pair.
Rookies Devin Vassell and Tre Jones checked in, as did Rudy Gay.
Walker penetrated a bit toward Jones and gave it to him, retreating to the arc. Jones dribbled back toward him, sucked in the defense a bit, and gave it back as Lonnie hit his second triple of the game. He had 10 of San Antonio's first 16 points.
Jones got an open look from the corner and made a rare three-point shot, a good sign for his development.
Gay took five shots, crammed home a dunk and drilled a three as the trailer, and hit free throws on the final play of the quarter to give San Antonio a 26-25 lead.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Detroit Pistons
When, where: Friday, 7:30 p.m., San Antonio
All-time series record: Spurs lead 60-25
Last season: Teams split series 1-1
Season series: Spurs lead 1-0
Last meeting: Spurs won 109-99, March 15, 2021
Pistons' last game: Lost vs. Mavericks, 127-117
Spurs' last game: Lost vs. Heat, 107-87
Pistons' last 10 games/streak: 4-6, lost 1
Spurs' last 10 games/streak: 4-6, lost 1
Pistons' injury/inactive report: Dennis Smith Jr, OUT (knee); Killian Hayes, OUT (injury management); Rodney McGruder, OUT (elbow).
Spurs' injury/inactive report: Dejounte Murray, OUT (rest); Patty Mills, OUT (rest); Trey Lyles, OUT (ankle).
As the grueling second-half schedule continues, the Spurs will give Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills the night off as San Antonio faces Detroit with both teams on short rest. A half hour before tipoff, San Antonio announced that DeMar DeRozan would join them on the bench with a right quad contusion.
"With our medical staff, we try to just do the best job we can to make sure that if rest seems like the obvious course to follow, that we do that," coach Gregg Popovich said before the game.
When asked who would start instead of Murray, Pop claimed they weren't sure about that yet. The Pistons are the dregs of the East at 18-41, and this is a game the Spurs absolutely need to win if they want to maintain their grip on a play-in spot.
Spurs stifled by Miami's press and zone in second half
The Spurs competed well in the first half but had no answer for Miami's 3-2 zone defense that held San Antonio to just 34 points in the second half en route to a 107-87 blowout late.
After the game, coach Gregg Popovich didn't answer questions from the media. He said that his team performed poorly against the Heat's press, and they deserved to win because they stuck with it. He added that it was a good effort through about three and a half quarters, and it was. They trailed the defending Eastern Conference champions by just six with under seven minutes to play.
"They got hot on top of us playing poorly on the offensive end, and that was a bad combination and they ended up kicking our butts," Popovich said. "That's the bottom line, we lose 'em together, and we move on."
Derrick White spoke about Miami's aggressive zone
"It's something that they're really good at, I mean it got them to the championship last year," he said, noting that San Antonio missed a few good shots and needed to execute better.