Detroit Pistons game previews between November 28 and December 4, including games against: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic.
We are a little over five weeks into the NBA season, and the Detroit Pistons have officially fallen out of the playoffs. They sit at 9-10, good for ninth in the Eastern Conference although just a half-game behind the Indiana Pacers. Of course, playoff seeding has little to no ramification at this point; after all, there are still over 60 games to be played, but it’s curious to see a team that was expected to perform so well struggle. However, these can mostly be chalked up to two causes. For one, the Pistons’ strength of schedule has been fairly rough, ranking 11th in the league. For another, and this is likely a larger cause, point guard Reggie Jackson is still out due to injury, which has left backup Ish Smith with the reigns. Luckily, Jackson looks to be on track to return within the next two weeks, which should give a huge boost to the team.
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Away
If you haven’t been ardently paying attention to the goings-on in the NBA this season, you may have missed the rise of the Hornets. Charlotte has fallen slightly in their recent games after starting off 8-3, but still sit firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Kemba Walker has been a revelation thus far, averaging a career high 24.8 points per game on 44 percent shooting from behind the arc. Center Cody Zeller is only putting up 12 points and five rebounds per game, but seems to be an integral part of the Hornets’ rotation; Charlotte has lost their last three games when Zeller has been out with injury.
The Hornets are built upon a foundation of their defense, boasting two-way stalwarts such as Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marvin Williams. As such, the Pistons will need a strong defensive effort of their own to compete here. Andre Drummond will have a big part to play, both in protecting the rim against a quick, slippery guard in Walker and in dominating a slimmer center such as Zeller.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Away
The Pistons have met the Celtics once before this season, falling by a score of 94-92 at home last week. This game was one of the first that featured a fully healthy Al Horford and Jae Crowder, so it should be taken as no surprise that Boston has won their last three games. The Pistons received a solid effort from their starters - three of the five finished at or above 19 points - but an incredibly poor one from the bench, who combined for only 13 points. This could be due to the Celtics’ own depth, but the product is simply unacceptable for any team looking to win.
Avery Bradley has been enjoying a career year - the shooting guard is shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and averaging eight rebounds per game, which is actually more than starting center Al Horford. On the Celtics’ side of things, nothing in particular stood out as extraordinary or unsustainable in the last meeting, so a win will need to come from an increased Detroit effort.
Friday, 2 December 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
The Atlanta Hawks have been sneakily successful this year, currently sitting tied for second in the Est with a 10-6 record. Obviously, the big story of their offseason was the departure of longtime franchise stalwart Al Horford, but free agent signee Dwight Howard has done much to step into this position, averaging 14.1 points and 12.9 rebounds. The Hawks also ponied up to retain swingman Kent Bazemore, but the 3-and-D specialist has not quite played up to his contract, shooting just 29 percent from three-point range.
Paul Millsap presents a versatile and extremely challenging matchup at the power forward position; he averages 4.5 post-ups and 4.4 three-point attempts per game, as well as 16.6 points per game. As such, Tobias Harris could struggle defending him, so a larger dose of Jon Leuer could come into play here. The Pistons’ road struggles have been well documented, with just one win so far, so when combined with the Hawks own proficiency, a win could be hard to come by.
Sunday, 4 December 2016 at 06:00 PM ET Home
The Orlando Magic turned heads this offseason with a series of confusing moves, as I described in their last meeting with the Pistons. As is stands now, they have struggled monumentally on offense, scoring just 92 points per game, which ranks next-to-last in the NBA. In their previous matchup with the Pistons, Detroit cruised to an easy 108-82 win at home in the second game of the season. Four of the five Pistons starters scored in double digits, as did Aron Baynes and Beno Udrih off the bench, leading to a balanced and dominating performance.
The Magic have a glut of big men, including centers Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic, so Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes, and Boban Marjanovic should all be used here. Elfrid Payton is not much of an offensive threat, so Ish Smith gets a slight reprieve from the string of talented guards he’s been facing thus far. Pistons fans should expect a closer finish here, but definitely still a win from Detroit.