Detroit Pistons game previews between December 19 and December 25, including games against: Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies.
Inconsistency is to be expected in the NBA - the season is 82 games, players will get injured, and good and bad nights are common. However, it looks like the Pistons have taken this trend to an extreme this season, even if their 14-15 record would suggest otherwise. Detroit’s wins have come by an average of 17.6 points, with their average loss coming by 12.2. As you might guess, close games have also been in short supply; the last Pistons game to finish with a margin under ten points, occurred December 4th.
The Pistons face three playoff-caliber teams this week, including one inter-divisional clash and a matchup against one of the best-constructed offenses in NBA history. Like last week, the biggest thing to watch regardless of matchup will likely be the continuing return of Reggie Jackson. The point guard has played in seven games thus far, averaging 13.6 points and four assists on just over 25 points per game. Clearly, he’s not all the way back, so it will be important to watch the progress he makes this week.
Monday, 19 December 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
The Bulls and Pistons have met once before this season, in which Detroit took a solid 13 point victory at home behind 22 points from Tobias Harris. Jimmy Butler had a characteristically great two-way game, scoring 32 points on 21 shots and holding the Pistons’ own three-and-D specialist to five points. However, even though this matchup took place just under two weeks ago, it can be safely said that circumstances have changed regarding the Bulls.
After a hot start, Chicago’s long-range shooting has condensed into the form widely anticipated; they rank dead last in terms of three-point shooting percentage, with no player but end-of-the-bench backup Bobby Portis shooting above 35 percent. The Bulls’ last two games came in a back-to-back against the Bucks, in which Milwaukee’s dynamic duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker ran roughshod, blowing Chicago out by a combined 37 points. The Pistons will be hoping for a similar effort here, as it seemed to many as if the Bulls quit early in both games. Bulls starting power forward Taj Gibson could miss time here with a hip contusion, which would be a boon to Detroit; Gibson has made a habit feasting on combo forwards down low. They’re catching them at seemingly just the right time, so Pistons fans should be optimistic about their chances here.
Wednesday, 21 December 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Home
Gone are the days of pound-the-rock, grit-and-grind basketball in Memphis. Zach Randolph is coming off the bench for the first time since 2003, 7-foot-1 center Marc Gasol is bombing away from three at a 43 percent clip, and deep-ball specialist Chandler Parsons was inked to a max deal this offseason. These items have carried on with varying degrees of success: Randolph is the third-leading scorer on the team and Gasol has thrust his name into the MVP conversation, but Parsons has played in just six games due to injury.
On both sides of the ball for Memphis, everything runs through Marc Gasol. As mentioned before, the big man has upped his game in terms of his offensive repertoire, but has also taken on an increased burden both due to injury and out of necessity. Andre Drummond will be a key defensive figure but also out of his element here as Gasol takes a high percentage of his touches outside the paint. With Drummond out from under the basket, the other Pistons big men will need to step up their game in the rebounding department; Randolph and starting power forward Jamychal Green combine to average 15.9 rebounds per game. Although they have exceeded expectations thus far, the Grizzlies present a legitimate playoff-caliber matchup for the Pistons, which is something that they haven’t faced in a while.
Golden State Warriors
Friday, 23 December 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Home
The Golden State Warriors will present a challenge to the Pistons not only in the sense of their 23-4 record, but also in their second ranked offense. This sets up a clash with the Pistons’ defense, which also ranks second league-wide.
One of the biggest aspects of the Pistons’ defense has been their guarding of the three-point line; they rank third in terms of opponent three-point percentage. This will obviously be huge against the Dubs, who boast lethally dangerous outside shooters in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant. In the absence of Andrew Bogut, who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, the Warriors have lacked a true rim protector and rebounder, which shows in their 27th rank in defensive rebounding rate. As such, Andre Drummond will need to have a big game on the glass to preserve the Pistons’ chances of winning. Should the Warriors go small, as they have been known to do, then players like Jon Leuer or even Tobias Harris will need to function as small-ball fives capable of switching onto the Warriors guards. The outlook doesn’t seem bright against Golden State, but as we’ve seen from the Pistons this season, anything can happen.