Detroit Pistons game previews between November 7 and November 13, including games against: Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs.
Two weeks into the season, the Detroit Pistons sit 4-2 and should be feeling good entering their third week. Save for an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets, they have taken care of business against lesser teams and avoided any pitfalls thus far. This week, the intensity is ratcheted up, firstly due to an extra game, with four contests on the docket this week including the second back-to-back of the season. In addition, two title contender await Detroit in the next seven days, with tilts against the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs upcoming.
Los Angeles Clippers
Monday, 7 November 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Away
In kicking off their new week, the Pistons face perhaps the toughest challenge of their young season. Even without a solid small forward in place for the last several years, building around Chris Paul, JJ Redick, Blake Griffin, and Deandre Jordan has led the once-embarrassing franchise to perennial title contender status.
This year’s team is led by their defense, ranking first in both opponent points per game and defensive rating.
Stopping the pick and roll will be crucial, as Lob City has built an offense around the quick darting exploits of Paul paired with the thunderous dunks and finishes of Griffin and Jordan. Ish Smith will be taxed with containing this relentless attack, as will Andre Drummond.
Drummond will be uniquely challenged here, as Jordan is one of the few centers in the NBA that can match his combination of size and athleticism. Tobias Harris will be tasked with defending Griffin, which may provide a slight issue; Griffin is built like a traditional big man, while Harris is built as more of a combo forward.
On an overall basis, this game will be a big moment for the Pistons. They will be looking to prove themselves as a legitimate contender by performing against one of the league’s elite, something they weren’t successful in the season opener.
Wednesday, 9 November 2016 at 09:00 PM ET Away
After starting the year winless in their first four games, the Phoenix Suns broke through last week with their first win, an overtime thriller against the Portland Trail Blazers. Obviously, the Suns are not a good team, which makes it doubly important that the Pistons not overlook them, as they seemingly did in last week’s loss to the Nets. Looking ahead to the Spurs game could be the trap here, but there are players and tendencies to watch out for on the Suns as well.
Most of Phoenix’s scoring comes from their backcourt, with point guards Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe running the offense, sophomore Devin Booker manning the perimeter, and small forward TJ Warren enjoying a breakout 22.4 points per game campaign.
Booker has had a down shooting season thus far at just 23.5 percent from behind the three-point line, which has hampered an otherwise shooting-challenged Suns team. Even though they are just 2-4, the Suns have played in three overtime contests so far, a record for any squad over their first six games, so this game could be very close.
Phoenix will be able to rotate in two capable centers to attempt to slow down Andre Drummond, but neither of Tyson Chandler nor Alex Len are a huge threat offensively at 6.2 and 9.6 points per game respectively.
Although their record is a bit misleading, the Suns are a team that the Pistons must beat consistently if they wish to be considered serious contenders.
San Antonio Spurs
Friday, 11 November 2016 at 08:30 PM ET Away
In the third of four straight road games, the Pistons road-trip down to Texas for a big matchup with the Kawhi Leonard-led San Antonio Spurs. Apart from the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, the Spurs have looked the part of the NBA’s second-best franchise thus far.
Much like other Greg Popovich-coached teams, San Antonio has a prolific defense, ranking third in opponent points per game.
Even with the departure of Tim Duncan, the Spurs play through the low post, feeding big men Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge and ranking 26th in terms of three-pointers attempted.
Aldridge, who is the Spurs’ second-leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, spends 81 percent of his time at the power forward spot, which could pose some problems defensively for Tobias Harris. Look for more minutes for Jon Leuer and the other big men off the bench to combat the two-big lineups.
It’s likely that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be tasked with defending Leonard, but expect help to come from the likes of Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson.
San Antonio’s lone loss has come at the hands of the Utah Jazz, in which no Spur besides Leonard and Aldridge scored in double figures, and with Danny Green and possibly Tony Parker out, the Pistons should look to capitalize on the Spurs’ lack of depth.
This will be a very tough test, and on the road, a victory will require some extraordinary efforts on the parts of some key Pistons.
Saturday, 12 November 2016 at 09:00 PM ET Away
In their second matchup of the year versus the Denver Nuggets, the Pistons look to perform better in their second back-to-back of the season, as they fell to the Brooklyn Nets in the same situation last week.
Starting shooting guard Gary Harris will have had three games under his belt at this point, including the first matchup with the Pistons, so the Nuggets offense will get a boost from his return. Last week, Harris played only 15 minutes in his first game back, so look for him to pose more of a threat next time.
In their first matchup with Denver, the Pistons blew out the Nuggets 103-86 at home, limiting the opposing guards severely on defense and generally overpowering a tired roster.
This matchup did come near the tail end of a long and arduous road trip, so this could also be somewhat of a trap game if the Nuggets come out thirsty for vengeance.
Andre Drummond had success against the Nuggets’ frontcourt-heavy lineup, posting yet another double-double with 19 points and 20 rebounds, while Tobias Harris had an uncharacteristically inefficient game with just 4-for-11 shooting.
If any of what we’ve seen thus far holds true, this game should be a win for the Pistons, albeit a little closer than before.
This will be the season’s first week with four games, and with an already depleted roster, we will get an in-depth look at how the Pistons’ bench pieces will play in increased opportunity. Matchups against the Clippers and Spurs will test Detroit’s fortitude, so Pistons fans should have a much better understanding of where their team stands after this week.