Detroit Pistons game previews between November 21 and November 27, including games against: Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder.
We are now five weeks into the 2016-2017 NBA season, and as it stands now, the Detroit Pistons have performed close to what most would have guessed. The team, still missing starting point guard Reggie Jackson, sits at 6-8 following a tough last week that saw them fall to formidable foes like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.
This week, the Pistons get no rest, facing another four games in six days situation that again features tough matchups like the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, led respectively by star point guards Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.
Monday, 21 November 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Home
Even though the Pistons have yet to play the new-look Mike D’Antoni-coached Houston Rockets, there is no reason that they should be surprised by any aspect of their opponents game. The Rockets have garnered a lot of national attention so far mainly due to the superstar play of James Harden. The latter’s switch to point guard coupled with the addition of a new, more offensive-minded coach and a more well-suited supporting cast has electrified Harden’s game as well as his bloated stat line, at 28.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 12.5 assists per game. Of course, the Rockets and Harden have struggled on defense, ranking 20th leaguewide in terms of defensive rating and allowing 105.2 points per game.
Stopping, or at least slowing down Harden should be the main key for the Pistons, as virtually the entire Rockets offense runs through the Beard. Look for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to slide down a position to defend their star, leaving Ish Smith to deal with the less involved and less threatening Eric Gordon. The lone bright spot of the Rockets’ defense has been center Clint Capela, so a heavy diet of Andre Drummond post feeds won't be the key to victory here. The Pistons as we’ve seen them so far would likely lose this game, but if they can maximize their opportunities, a victory certainly isn't out of the question.
Wednesday, 23 November 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Home
The Heat have been sent into a tailspin following the loss of Dwyane Wade (free agency) and Chris Bosh (medical condition), starting the season off 3-8 with a depleted roster featuring mostly unproven younger players or veterans on cheap deals. Center Hassan Whiteside has been the Heat’s best player fresh off his newly signed max contract, posting monster numbers of 17.6 points and 16 rebounds per game. At the two and three Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow have been somewhat effective but vastly inefficient, shooting 36 and 33 percent from the field respectively. Still, Winslow and Whiteside are fairly good defenders, which explains the Heat’s impressive 99.8 defensive rating.
Largely because of Whiteside’s presence, running an offense through Drummond shouldn’t be considered a sound plan, nor should attacking the Heat’s strong interior defense. Look for this to be a slower paced game with the superior offensive talents of the Pistons prevailing over time. If Detroit wants to prove they belong in the playoff picture, they absolutely must defeat an objectively bad Heat team here.
Los Angeles Clippers
Friday, 25 November 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Home
Although expecting a different result may have been overly optimistic, the Pistons’ first matchup of the year against the Clippers did not do much to inspire optimism regarding Detroit’s status as a true contender. The Pistons were held to their second-lowest point output of the year against the vaunted Clipper defense, managing to score a paltry 82 points. All told, Andre Drummond and company were blown out by a 32 point margin, with a 30 point halftime deficit effectively sealing the game early. There isn’t a ton of shame in this result; after all, the Clippers have a staggering +14.6 net rating, but one would expect more from the team’s effort, particularly the starting lineup, which combined for only 40 points.
A couple factors point to increased chances of a Piston victory in this second matchup - for one, this game will take place at home, where the Piston’s winning percentage jumped by nearly 20 percent last year. For another, there should be no way that the Pistons come out lethargic or defeated here, as they will be looking to avenge their earlier embarrassment. It will take a lot more out of Ish Smith (one point against LA last time) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (two points) for the Pistons to have a chance, but all fans should be looking for is a much better effort.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
In yet another back to back for the Pistons, they travel south to face the Thunder, whom they dispatched by a score of 104-88 at home. Of course, this game will be played on the road, so expecting another blowout isn’t good practice from Pistons fans. Russell Westbrook still leads the team with 31.7 points per game, but shooting guard Victor Oladipo has also picked up the scoring effort of late, rising to 17.1 points per game on 42 percent shooting. That being said, the Thunder still make their bones on defense, ranking fifth in defensive rating even while facing the tenth toughest schedule, according to Basketball-Reference.
The key to the Pistons’ last win was a strong scoring output from their starters; four of the five finished the game in double-digits, with Aron Baynes and Tobias Harris at 22 and 21 respectively. With Drummond back, this could be a spot where Stan Van Gundy decides to ride his young center even against the formidable Thunder big man rotation. The Thunder have been much more effective at home than on the road and adding on the effects of the tough back-to-back, the Pistons could potentially drop a game in Oklahoma City here.
After arguably their toughest week yet, the Pistons receive only a slight reprieve in their next seven days. This week will again test the mettle of some of the franchise’s most valued and experienced players, and should also serve to answer some important questions regarding the roster’s makeup. Can Andre Drummond truly “bring it” every night? Can the forward tandem find their three-point stroke? How much can we expect to change upon Jackson’s return? With luck, Pistons fans and coaches alike should be closer to finding some solutions to the team’s problems after this week.