Detroit Pistons game previews between November 14 and November 20, including games against: Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks.
With ten games under their belt, the Detroit Pistons, as well as every other NBA team, have started to solidify into the team that we will see for the rest of the season, exhibiting both positive and adverse trends. So far, Motor City has performed fairly well, especially considering the absence of Reggie Jackson, but there has certainly been room for improvement with recent losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns. This week, the Pistons again face a four-game slate with yet another back-to-back. The next four games will perhaps tell us more about this Pistons team than we’ve seen thus far, although fans should still be careful not to overreact.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Monday, 14 November 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Home
Ish Smith has done a competent job filling in for the injured Reggie Jackson, but this matchup has the potential to turn sour in a hurry against arguably the NBA’s most dangerous guard, Russell Westbrook. Virtually every action on the Thunder runs through Westbrook; his 42.2 usage rate is tops in the league. Keeping Westbrook off the scoreboard is near-impossible, but the path to victory likely comes through Westbrook’s efficiency, or lack thereof. In wins, the Thunder point guard is shooting a decent 45 percent, but in losses, that number drops to just 33 percent. With little help around him, it looks like a team effort will be necessary to stop Westbrook, and by proxy, the Thunder. Oklahoma City does have a suffocating defense, led by center Steven Adams, so look for Stan Van Gundy to exploit the Tobias Harris-Domantas Sabonis matchup for easy offense. As it stands now, the Thunder have a better record than the Pistons, but at home, Detroit has an outside shot at a win here.
New York Knicks
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Away
Derrick Rose’s “superteam” comments aside, the Knicks have built a fairly decent, if not contending, roster. Since their last meeting with the Pistons (in which Detroit cruised to a 13 point victory), the Knicks have gone 2-3 and seem to be solidly on track to achieve mediocrity. Of course, given that the second matchup is in Madison Square Garden and the recently improved play of bench players like Willy Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, this win may not come as easily. The biggest key to the first Pistons victory was their defense, holding the Knicks to just 89 points. Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, and Kristaps Porzingis all scored around their season averages, but three Knicks reserves failed to register a single point in over 26 minutes combined. This is impressive, but likely not replicable, so the Pistons may need to bear down to come out of the Big Apple with the win.
Friday, 18 November 2016 at 07:30 PM ET Away
Although the Cavaliers are no longer unbeaten, falling to the Atlanta Hawks after starting the season 6-0, they have started the season playing every bit like the defending champions they are. Each member of the so-called Big Three is scoring at above 20 points per game, and the Cavs offense looks as efficient as it ever has during either LeBron era. In their defeat to the Hawks, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson was held in check by Hawks counterpart Dwight Howard, the former posting just two rebounds and a plus-minus of negative-14. This seems to bode well for Detroit; Andre Drummond is every bit the rebounding talent and physical presence of Howard, and then some. Of course, it won’t be that simple - the Cavs are built almost without weakness, so a win here will need the best version of every Piston to show up.
Saturday, 19 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home
This may be the toughest back-to-back of the season, at least regarding expectations, as the Pistons play two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams in successive days. The Celtics boast a deep and versatile core, featuring unique talents such as diminutive but explosive point guard Isaiah Thomas and do-it-all center Al Horford. However, thus far the C’s have struggled, starting out 4-4, although this may be more due to injuries to starters Jae Crowder and Horford, both of whom should be back before the game here. To win, the Pistons must stop Isaiah Thomas; the diminutive point guard leads Boston with 25.7 points and 7.3 assists per game. Sliding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over to guard Thomas may not work either, as Celtic shooting guard Avery Bradley is second on the team with 19.7 points per contest. With the Celtics’ defense ranking near the bottom regarding defensive rating, this game will likely have to be a shootout for the Pistons to pull out a victory.
Up until this point, the Pistons have faced a relatively good slate, ranking near the middle of the pack regarding the strength of schedule. That all changes this week. Detroit will face three top-tier point guards in the space of five days, and if chemistry and communication aren’t locked in, they could find themselves in a certainly less-than-desirable spot.