By Sarah Cilea
It was a rare sight. Kawhi Leonard missing shots from three-point range–and from the mid-range, and the paint–has happened so infrequently this season that it feels like an anomaly on par with Halley’s Comet. But it exists, rarity or not. On Tuesday night, Leonard’s missed shots streaked across the court at the Palace of Auburn Hills clear as day. He shot 1-of-7 and finished with fewer than ten points for just the second time this season.
With Leonard struggling to his worst game since the above mentioned cheesesteak sandwich was still in his system, a few familiar faces stepped out of the shadows to pick up the slack en route to a 109-99 victory.
Led by Tony Parker’s 31, the trio of Parker, Ginobili and Duncan combined for 60 points. It was the first time their total scoring output hit that threshold since February 19, 2015 against the Clippers.
For his part, Parker was remarkable. His most impressive stretch came when he opened the third quarter shooting a perfect 7-for-7 for 14 points in under five minutes.
His outburst helped to extend a halftime cushion. When that cushion disappeared he returned early in the fourth quarter and was instrumental in closing the game. Parker scored his season high on 13-of-19 shooting with four rebounds and three assists.
He also contributed to holding known Spur-killer Reggie Jackson to 3-of-13 shooting and five turnovers. Parker not only fought over screens and pursued Jackson relentlessly, but his constant attack on the offensive end also wore on Jackson in demoralizing fashion.
Duncan had a strong all-around game. He finished with 14 points (5-of-8), nine rebounds, three assists, four steals, two blocks, and essentially played young Pistons’ center and surefire future All-Star Andre Drummond to a standstill.
When Drummond sat with foul trouble, Duncan got reacquainted with former Spur Aron Baynes.
Baynes is no featherweight. His solid frame leaning on a 39-year-old with a bad knee is not an ideal scenario for the Spurs. It’s one reason, as Sean Elliott recalls only half jokingly, Gregg Popovich used to make sure Baynes and Duncan were on the same team when the Spurs scrimmaged. But Duncan was not entirely inexperienced coming into Tuesday night, and he took care of the big Aussie about as well as he did outside that club in LA last summer.
Ginobili rounded out their triumvirate with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. For a guy whose coach would rather he not play in any back-to-backs, he just put together a fine showing. The two days off prior to the b2b probably helped, and Ginobili looked fresh. He got plenty of lift out of his legs and shot the ball with a nice arc.
Ginobili went 2-of-5 from three in Detroit. In fairness, two of those were attempts to beat the buzzer at the end of the first and second quarters, though he did manufacture a decent look on the latter of the two.
While the Big Three put together a vintage performance, their output was supplemented by another 22 points and 13 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge beasted through the back-to-back with at least 20 and 10 on better than 50 percent shooting both nights. His rapport with his teammates is growing and he’s starting to look as comfortable as a sheep on a Serta mattress.
All this underlines the ability that fills out this Spurs’ roster and the potential it gives the team. Much has been made about a Next Three, or a new Big Two, or Kawhi Leonard taking the reins. He and LaMarcus will have to be very good for the Spurs to get where they want to go. But along the way they can afford an off night here and there. This team is still built to share the burden and after all, the Big Three are still around.
“There are so many weapons on this team; it can be anyone any night.” – Tony Parker