By Ashley Scoby

Decent offense and spastic defense – it was the same old story for the Pistons Tuesday night against the Spurs.

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Detroit led by one after a quarter, was down by nine at halftime and then imploded in the third period, allowing the Spurs to tear through the defense at will. Nineteen was the deficit at one point, before Detroit ended on a respectable note and lost 109-99 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Over and over again down the stretch, Detroit scored and cut into San Antonio’s lead, only to have defensive lapses on the other end spoil the progress.

“We came out, started the game, played really hard with good energy, defended,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Then they went to their bench and their bench destroyed us in the first half and then our starters came out with nothing in the second half defensively, absolutely nothing.”

Tony Parker ripped past Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson, at one point making seven straight shots at the beginning of the third quarter. If not for a Tim Duncan basket in the middle of his run, Parker would have done all the Spurs’ scoring for nearly five minutes.

The 33-year-old finished with 31 points. But like a major league pitcher, he might as well have gotten credit for the win, too. Down the stretch, the Pistons couldn’t do anything with him, even if they played well enough offensively to stay close.

“With Tony, he’s like one of my favorite guards of all time,” said Jennings, who finished with nine points and four assists. “He had that stretch where I think he hit like 16 in a row. At the end of the day he’s still one of the best point guards in the NBA and one of the hardest guards to guard in the NBA, so he can turn it on whenever he wants.”

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Van Gundy estimated his team played to its full capacity for only 23 or 24 minutes. For the rest of the game, the defensive effort was lacking.

“You’re going to have to play a full game against a team like that,” he said. “If you’re not gonna fight every second you’re out there against that team, then you’re not gonna have a chance.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope poured in 25, continuing his recent hot streak and keeping the Pistons close.

But the Pistons’ calling card this year – not succumbing to blowouts, and coming back against double-digit deficits – can only do so much against a team like San Antonio. The Spurs are the only team in the NBA to have top three offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. They’ve won more games by 25 points or more than any other team this year.

And although an audible, overzealous Pistons fan at the Palace Tuesday called for Manu Ginobili (38 years old) to grab his walker on the way out, the Spurs’ veteran efficiency won out over the Pistons’ youthful inconsistency.

Tim Duncan scored 14 points, Ginobili had 15 and LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 22. But it was Parker’s 31 – and the ease with which he scored them – that killed the Pistons.

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“He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer for a reason,” said Jackson, finishing with 10 points and 11 assists. “He’s really good. He’s been playing this game a long time, very crafty. He knows how to get where he wants to go.”