Game Tips at 8:30 PM EST
Detroit Pistons: 7-14 (2-9 road)
Houston Rockets: 7-13 (4-4 home)
The Drama (pronounced like "grandma"):
Tracy McGrady returns to Houston, giving color analysts a chance to dust off their best sappy/retrospective material (mostly because there's nothing else to talk about).
The similarities between these two rosters is a bit staggering. The Rockets start an under-sized center who makes up for his size with a high basketball IQ and solid defense. One step back in the depth chart, Houston features a finesse-style center who is known for his passing. Their wings include a do-it-all small forward and a shooting guard who is pretty much a Hamilton/Gordon hybrid. Their starting point guard is out, so their under-sized energy backup is manning the point.
The main difference between Detroit and Houston is Luis Scola, the Rockets starting power forward who has had the Pistons number for as long as he's been in the league. In two meetings last year, Scola averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds on 58% shooting against Detroit. Those numbers are not an aberration, because the Big Argentinian is averaging 20 and 9 so far this season. Some might look at the lack of shot blocking from Scola and think he's not much of a defender, but Synergy Sports has him ranked as the #1 pick-and-roll defender in the league so far this year (holding his man to 40% shooting on what are normally high-percentage opportunities). Since the Pistons love letting scoring bigs steal their lunch money, Scola has a chance to get rich tonight.
While the Rockets are struggling this season, it's certainly not the fault of three key players including the aforementioned Scola. Kevin Martin is doing what he does best, hitting three pointers and getting to the line (more than 8 times per game), well enough to join Scola in the 20+ ppg mark. Last, Brad Miller is having one hell of a season, adding 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists on a stand-out 55% shooting in 19 minutes. These are the three key players Detroit needs to watch tonight, as they can combine to drop some serious buckets on lazy defenders.
Houston will be without a few players tonight. Aaron Brooks is still out with a sprained left ankle, Shane Battier caught Dwight Howard's stomach bug and Yao Ming is still out with foot issues (I know, you're shocked). Kyle Lowry will continue to start at the point, showing off a Will-Bynum-with-a-3-point-shot type of game. Courtney Lee will start in place of Shane Battier, opening up more minutes for the Pistons draft pick Chase Budinger.
Keys to the Game:
Transition Defense: The Rockets play at one of the fastest paces in the league. Transition defense will be important to protect against a running team that will look to score early in the shot clock. Watch the outlet passes and rush back to set up a defense before Houston penetrates.
Pick up the Pace: While the Rockets score a lot, they give up even more points-- 107 a game. Detroit will need to improve its sluggish pace to attack Houston the same way they come at their opponents. Tonight will be a good night for Stuckey and Gordon to penetrate. Tonight will be a bad night for Tayshaun to stand on the perimeter with the ball, casually observing traffic for 10 seconds every possession.
Small Ball: I hate myself for saying this, but going small can be effective against Houston. Gordon/Lowry, Hamilton/Martin and Stuckey/Lee are pretty much identical in height, so playing three guards isn't giving up size tonight. Not to dump more dirt on Tayshaun, but if you're going small, why not use your stretch four at PF?
Question of the Game:
I'm struggling to come up with any compelling questions for tonight. Why don't I leave that up to you? Ask your own question of the game in the comments.