Coverage at 7:00 pm ET
Detroit: 4-4 (1-3 road)
Washington: 2-6 (1-2 home)
Flip Saunders' start at the helm of the Washington Wizards has been a bit bumpy, but to no fault of his own. Once again, the Wizards' greatest enemy isn't the opposition, it's their own health. Washington will be playing without Antawn Jamison and three of its guards, Mike James, Javaris Crittenton and Randy Foye. Having lost the last five games in a row, that stretch could extend to six tonight thanks to a Pistons team that is just starting to click.
That's not to say that Washington can't win this one. Gilbert Arenas is an x-factor, regardless of the condition of his sore calf. Brendan Haywood has returned to form, averaging 13 rebounds and 4 blocks per game across the last four. Andray Blatche has been a boon off the bench, having a breakout year averaging 14 points and 6.5 rebounds. Give these players four days of rest and anything can happen. So all injuries aside, Detroit should not expect an easy game tonight.
After losing to Boston in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, Detroit will come face-to-face with ex-coach Flip Saunders. Not to burst the drama bubble, but not a single starter from that playoff series against Boston will be on the court tonight against Saunders. Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell were the only two players from that team on our current roster. In spite of his rocky relationship with a few of the Pistons players (and the fans as well), it'll be interesting to see what Flip can do with a roster a bit more suited to his coaching style.
Keys for Detroit:
Crash the boards: I have the feeling I can just cut and paste this one for the remainder of the season.
Move the ball: Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche are on a shot blocking binge of late. Our penetrating guards need to focus on distribution unless a layup is a sure thing. As a team, Washington isn't a great perimeter defender, so let's get Gordon, Villanueva, Jerebko and Daye some clean looks from outside.
Hit the damn free throws: They're free. So take them and make them. If Washington hopes to win, they'll do so in a close contest. In this scenario, the outcome can be swung by our performance at the stripe. 69.9% is absymal, especially from a team with better free throw shooters than last season's roster.
Question of the Game:
Can Detroit get back over .500 for the first time since March 15th? It'd be great to take a winning record into next week, when we face the Mavericks, Lakers, Blazers and Jazz. Another win tonight could build confidence that will pay dividends against the playoff machines of the Western Conference.