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Malaise in the Palace

By Jeff Koch on February 9, 2013.

Last night’s loss to the Pistons was a long time coming. The team hadn’t been playing great for a while, but had been getting wins mostly by executing down the stretch and playing passable to good defense in stretches. But missing 2 of your 3 most important players, you’re going to lose some games, particularly on the road in February in the middle of a blizzard against a team that is having an “on” night.

The margin of difference between the truly elite teams and the worst teams in the league isn’t as great as one might imagine. To even get a whiff of the NBA, a player has to be in the top 5% of ability in the entire world at the game of basketball (it’s probably closer to top 1%, but I’m being generous). Every player on an NBA bench can play. There are many factors that separate teams beyond that. But on any given night, one team could play with a little less energy, and reach only about 85% of their usual effectiveness; and another team could, again, for a variety of factors, exceed their usual effectiveness and reach about 110%. That would be enough for a team like the Pistons to hang 119 on the Spurs in their own gym.

I thought the Spurs were certainly lacking in energy, but I didn’t think they played like crap. The Pistons just played extremely well for about 80% of the game, and it was enough to outlast the Spurs, who only had a few good spurts in them (mostly led by Tony Parker).

Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Factor in the Pistons’ inability to miss a shot, and the loss was understandable. As Spurs fans, we don’t see the lesser teams of the East play all that much, but Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight are legitimately very good players, and given the time and the right team, can be future stars.

Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe (10) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The chatter around the Spurs blogosphere is the back-up PG problem, which we’ve been monitoring for quite some time. Between Gary Neal, Patty Mills, and Nando De Colo we have a lot of strengths and a lot of weaknesses. With any of them backing up Parker, we’re going to run into some problems. However, the truth we all know is that Manu Ginobili is (and has been for quite some time) our back-up PG. With Manu on the court, each of the other 3 fits in both offensively and defensively so much better, and is what allows our second unit to have so much pop.

Yet another thing it seems like we’ve been saying for years: this is why Manu’s health in the playoffs is so important.

But for one night, after winning 11 straight, it’s an understandable loss. I’ll be interested to see how the team responds Sunday in Brooklyn, and to see if Tim or Manu make it back into the line-up.

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