Detroit Pistons game previews between December 12 and December 18, including games against: Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards.
We are 26 games into the NBA season, and it looks like the Detroit Pistons are finally hitting their full stride. Much of this has to do with the return of starting point guard Reggie Jackson, who made his season debut last week, but other players have also recently stepped up their game. Center Andre Drummond’s last five games have seen the big man average 17.4 point and 15.2 rebounds, the latter of which would lead the league. These two occurrences are more than likely related; the two-man combination of Jackson and Drummond was plus-161 points last season. For the first time in roughly a month, Detroit will see a slate of three games this week, so it will be interesting to see what the newly fortified core can do on longer rest.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016 at 08:30 PM ET Away
In their first game of the week, the Pistons travel south to face the cellar-dwelling Dallas Mavericks. At only 5-18, the Mavs have been ravaged by injuries thus far, some of which will hamper them against Detroit. Starters JJ Barea, Andrew Bogut, and Dirk Nowitzki will all be out here, which certainly bodes well for the Pistons. Backups Seth Curry and Salah Mejri will be the duo tasked with defending the Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond pick and roll, so look for Stan Van Gundy to abuse this matchup early and often.
One of the biggest issues to watch here will be the Mavericks turnover-causing defense against the Pistons’ ball control; Dallas currently ranks first leaguewide in terms of defensive turnover rate, while Detroit has the second-lowest rate in the offensive metric. The Pistons have not yet met the Mavericks this season, but all observable signs point to a Detroit victory here.
Friday, 16 December 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Away
The Pistons continue their road trip here with another bottom-feeder in the Washington Wizards, who sit 12th in the East despite a dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The duo combined average over 45 points per game, with Wall adding 9.5 assists per contest. Otto Porter has also looked good, even posting the team’s highest offensive rating, but what has really hurt the Wizards has been their depth - or more accurately, lack of it. No non-starter save for garbage-time rookie Sheldon McLellan has a positive net rating, and the lack of a reliable defensive presence has crippled the bench unit.
Wizards execs didn’t plan on having such a leaky set of reserves; free agent signee Ian Mahimi has played in just one game thus far this season. Recent news leaves it unsure if he will be playing against the Pistons, but it remains to be seen if he alone can solve the defensive issues that plague Washington. The Wizards have played at .500 at home, compared with a 2-7 record on the road, but Pistons fans should be expecting a win here.
Saturday, 17 December 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home
Another week, another back-to-back. The Pistons have been 2-3 in the second game of their back-to-backs so far this year, and will get a home game to add more favorability to their winning probabilities. The Pacers sit around .500, but it looks like their arrow is trending in a different direction than the similarly-seeded Pistons. The composite starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Thaddeus Young, and Myles Turner has been a cumulative minus-18 thus far, and there’s not much to point to as far as items of hope. Defense has particularly been a problem; the team ranks 25th in opponent points per game while having faced the eighth easiest schedule so far, according to basketball-reference.
Ellis in particular, has been atrocious: his own net rating of minus-18 is worst on the team, and he recently allowed Klay Thompson to go off for 60 points on just 11 dribbles. As such, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should have a good game here. In terms of stopping the Pacers, Paul George has carried the load, leading the team in scoring at 20.8 points per game, but the Pistons do still have the league’s best defense by defensive rating. Although they share a division, the Pistons have yet to meet with Indiana this season, so this matchup may go far to determine the hierarchy within the Central this year.