SAN ANTONIO – Keldon Johnson scored 27 points and the San Antonio Spurs had their highest-scoring game of the season, beating short-handed Detroit 144-109 on Sunday to extend the Pistons’ road skid to 10.
San Antonio has won three straight and four of five to move into 10th in the Western Conference.
“They came out aggressively and kept it for most of the 48 minutes. That was nice to see,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “A lot of guys got to participate, but, obviously, it wasn’t a fair fight. The Pistons are in tough shape right now with all the guys they are missing.”
Detroit had five players out in the league’s health and safety protocols, including top draft pick Cade Cunningham. Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk are also out with injuries. Additionally, Pistons coach Dwane Casey was absent due to personal reasons unrelated to the virus.
Hamidou Diallo scored 28 points for Detroit. Saddiq Bey added 23, Luka Garza had 20 and Frank Jackson 17. The Pistons’ four-man bench was outscored 73-21.
“We had limited subs to go to, so we were trying to just move pieces around and trying to get to maybe a combination that would work for us,” Pistons acting coach Rex Kalamian said.
Detroit has lost three straight since snapping a 14-game skid with a victory over Miami on Dec. 19.
The Spurs were among the few teams not impacted by COVID-19 this season, but that changed Sunday morning when Dejounte Murray was ruled out.
San Antonio overcame the loss of its starting point guard by sharing the workload. The Spurs had a season-high 39 assists, with Tre Jones having a career-high 11 and Derrick White adding 10.
“We knew it was going to be a weird game. They had guys testing positive today even,” Jones said. “We have to continue to prepare the same way, like we always do. It’s going to be a weird season, there are a lot of things going on right now.”
Spurs reserve center Jock Landale had 18 points, starting center Jakob Poeltl added 14 and Doug McDermott scored 13. San Antonio sat its primary starters in the fourth quarter ahead of playing five games in seven days.
Detroit started Derrick Walton Jr., signed Saturday on a hardship contract, as the Pistons had their 12th different starting lineup. The lack of familiarity was evident quickly, as Poeltl strolled for an uncontested layup off a simple screen as the Pistons stared at each other following a missed assignment on the game’s opening possession.
San Antonio would score a season-high 38 points in the opening quarter and 78 in the first half. San Antonio led by as many as 30 points in the first half, building a 25-point lead for the third straight game.
“We have a lot of guys touching the floor for some NBA minutes for the first time in a long time,” Kalamian said. “I think we played hard. We didn’t play necessarily smart so much. That was kind of our problem. We didn’t share the ball enough in the first half.”
The Spurs shot 56% from the field in winning their seventh straight at home over the Pistons.
The Pistons committed 14 turnovers and were 8 for 32 on 3-pointers.
Pistons: Isaiah Stewart, Saben Lee, Killian Hayes and Rodney McGruder are also out due to the league’s health and safety protocols. … Grant missed his eighth straight game after tearing ligaments in his right thumb. … Olynyk remains out after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee. He has not played since Nov. 10 against Houston. … The Pistons’ last road win was Nov. 13 in Toronto. They are 2-14 on the road.
Spurs: San Antonio’s previous highs were 37 points in the first quarter and 74 points in the first half, both against Denver on Dec. 9. … The Spurs have led by 25 points or more in six games this season, including their previous two. They are undefeated in those games. … White had nine assists in the first half, the fifth most in franchise history. Tony Parker holds the record with 12 assists in the first half, followed by Manu Ginobili, George Hill and Murray with 10 each. … San Antonio, which hosts Utah on Monday, is 3-6 in back-to-back games and 2-2 in the second game.
Garza had 20 points and six rebounds in his third start before fouling out with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.
The sixth foul confused Garza and the Pistons.
“They had him for six fouls, and we had him for five, so I’m not quite sure,” Kalamian said. “We’ll go back and find out where that sixth foul came in, but we wish he could have gotten a few more minutes. We love Luka’s effort and energy and spirit.”
Pistons: Host New York on Wednesday.
Spurs: Host Utah on Monday.