Never count out the San Antonio Spurs.
DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points and dished out nine assists to lead the Spurs to their fifth straight win on Monday in Detroit, the NBA's longest active win streak.
It's quite the remarkable turnaound for San Antonio who not that long ago were on the ropes in the hyper competitive Western Conference.
On December 5, the Spurs lost 121-113 at STAPLES Center, blowing a fourth-quarter lead to the Lakers as LeBron James uncorked a vintage Hall-of-Fame performance.
It was merely the latest in a string of disappointing losses for the Spurs who had dropped four of five with the other three losses coming by 30 or more.
- A 34-point shellacking on December 4 at Utah
- A 31-point beatdown at the hands of the Rockets on November 30
- A 39-point drubbing in Minnesota on November 28
It doesn't take a Hall of Fame coach like Popovich to surmise that the Spurs were in trouble, their streak of 21 consecutive postseason appearances in serious doubt. Following that loss to the Lakers, the Spurs were just 11-14, the first time in two decades under Popovich that they had a losing record through 25 games.
Flash forward a month and the Spurs are the NBA's hottest team, winners of 13 of their last 16 games, the best record in the NBA over that span.
The calling card in Monday's win - outside of big performances by DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points) - was a stifling defensive performance in the decisive second quarter in which the Spurs held the Pistons to just 20 points on 8-21 shooting while only sending Detroit to the free throw line a single time. It's been their calling card of late as the Spurs entered Monday tied with the Jazz for the NBA's most efficient defence over the last month.
Another positive developement especially of late has been the emergence of promising second-year guard Derrick White, who began the season on the pine after sustaining a heel injury that kept him out of San Antonio's first nine games. White scored 17 points on Monday on just seven shots, his sixth straight game in double figures. White is averaging 16.5 points per game over his last six, a drastic spike from the 5.9 points per game he averaged over his first 26 games.
There's plenty of basketball left to be played and the Spurs are certainly no shoe-in to keep that postseason streak alive in an unforgiving conference.
But given where they were just one month ago, the Spurs are once again in control of their own destiny and on the road to yet again showing that they are far from finished.