The San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons have the top records in the league and one more game against each other on Thursday night before going their separate ways for the rest of the season. If they do meet again it will be for another NBA title.
The two teams met on Christmas Day in a rematch of last season’s NBA finals and Detroit held San Antonio to just eight points in the first quarter and clamped down on the Spurs’ offense in the fourth in a 85-70 win.
That point total was the lowest of the season for the Spurs, and the Pistons expect the rematch to also be dominated by defense.
“People want to see scoring in basketball, but we’re two defensive teams,” said Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince. “A lot of people like the matchup, but at the same time, they’d like to see us score more, but that’s not going to happen.”
San Antonio ended New Jersey’s 10-game winning streak on Tuesday night, beating the Nets 96-91. The Spurs nearly faded down the stretch, seeing a 16-point lead cut to four in the final minute.
“We can’t have bad endings of games because against Detroit or good teams, it can hurt us,” said San Antonio guard Tony Parker.
The Pistons beat New Orleans on Tuesday to improve their record to 27-5. San Antonio stands at 27-8, the league’s second-best mark.
Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili, who missed the first game in Detroit with a sprained right foot, says Thursday’s game will serve as a yardstick for his team.
“It’s a measuring thing because they’re the best team right now in the NBA,” he said. “We want to see where we are at now.”
Ginobili said the Pistons have been playing with greater intensity this season, which he attributes to them learning from last year’s loss in the finals.
“They know they probably didn’t win the championship because of (San Antonio’s) home-court advantage,” he said. “They look like they’ve been taking care of business from the first day.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich agreed, saying, “Detroit wants to get back and win a championship. They started slow last year—they didn’t want to do that again. They’re trying to prove a point.”
But Pistons players say Thursday night in San Antonio is just another stop on the schedule.
“It’s nothing like, ‘We’ve really got to go stick it to these guys this time.’ It’s nothing like that,” said forward Rasheed Wallace, who will likely defend Spurs star Tim Duncan. “It’s always a good game when we play them, whether it’s at their spot or at our spot.”
Added center Ben Wallace, “We know they know what we’re about and we know what they’re about. … There ain’t nobody going to surprise nobody.”