In “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” the entirety of the Rebel Alliance’s attack plan on the Death Star relies on the exploitation of on flaw in the design: a small opening about two meters wide.
Hosting Star Wars night in the AT&T Center against the Detroit Pistons it was the San Antonio Spurs playing the role of the empire, firing away from the free throw line with the accuracy of a Storm Trooper, missing six in the fourth quarter.
With an opportunity to put the Pistons away, Tim Duncan reentered the game to inbound the ball, an errant pass sealing the Spurs fate as Brandon Jennings (13 points, seven assists) picked up the loose ball and ran the length of the court in less than seven parsecs (or, you know, seconds). The 104-105 loss by the San Antonio Spurs continues a search for any semblance of rhythm in a very disjointed season.
“Of all the losses [this season] it seems that there are a lot of minor mistakes here and there. We’re not where we need to be or want to be,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “We’re not able to close the way we have in the past and that’s uncharacteristic of this team.”
Greater fortunes seemed in store for the Spurs as they jumped out of the gate with a commanding 37-20 lead in the first quarter. Tony Parker made his long awaited return to the starting lineup and the Spurs responded with good ball movement and spacing, which got Tim Duncan going early, scoring nine of his 15 points in the first quarter.
Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich continued to utilize his hockey-line (5-for-5) substitution patterns, prompting the best game from Jeff Ayres this season (16 points, four rebounds) and another solid game from Boris Diaw (10 points on five shots).
The second half proved less fruitful for the struggling Spurs. Duncan played only a little more than seven minutes in the second half while Parker (three points and two assists in roughly 13 minutes) did not return to the court after halftime.
“He wanted to play, but I’m being conservative,” Popovich said. “He had 13 minutes. That’s good after sitting out as long as he did; make sure he doesn’t reinjure the thing.”
While the Spurs are waiting to add players returning from injury to make them whole, the Pistons have benefited from addition by subtraction. Since jettisoning Josh Smith the Pistons are now 6-0, led by their foreboding front line of Greg Monroe (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Andre Drummond (20 points, 17 rebounds) as well as Jennings, their resurgent point guard.
Overpowering the Spurs, the Pistons used a 33-19 third quarter to overtake San Antonio. A flurry of fourth quarter three-pointers from the Spurs helped retake the lead, but five turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch provided the flaw in the design the upstart Pistons were able to exploit.
In the end, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t need an elaborate defense or Death Star. With a one point lead and a fraction of a second remaining, Spurs fans hoping for a sequel of the New Year’s Eve victory over the New Orleans Hornets were disappointed by Van Gundy’s brilliant strategy.
“Build a fucking wall,” Van Gundy shouted in his team’s huddle, a rallying cry that will reverberate in even galaxies far, far away. Out of the timeout the Spurs got a one-in-a-million attempts on a Manu Ginobili tip “shot.” But for those looking for a victory, these were not the Pistons you were looking for.