Rodney Stuckey is still out, which means that it is yet another baptism by fire for rookie point guard Brandon Knight, who has struggled as the starting point guard for the Detroit Pistons. Luckily, Detroit isn’t the only team with injury concerns. The Dallas Mavericks will be missing their own starting point guard, Jason Kidd, who is out with a strained back. The Pistons, following Monday’s 24-point shellacking at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, are coming off of the worst four-game stretch in franchise history. If one were trying to be an optimist, one could note that the Dallas Mavericks are winless on the road and Detroit’s two victories have come at home. If one were an optimist.
Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. EST
Detroit Pistons: 2 - 7 (2 - 2 home)
Dallas Mavericks: 4 – 5 (0 – 3 away)
The Detroit Pistons are a mess. Specifically the Detroit Pistons offense is a mess. Actually, the defense is kind of a mess too, but at least there is some semblance of a system in place and effort from the players defensively. Head coach Lawrence Frank has said since the end of the lockout that he would be emphasizing defense first and that the offense, and the team, would be a "work in progress." Judging by the Pistons' groan-worthy play on the offensive end, he has kept true to his word.
Ball movement has been absent for long stretches, especially when the opposing team goes on a run. And the pick and roll plays that Frank favors take nearly the entire shot clock to develop as players have looked hesitant and get bad positioning. That has lead to a lot of awkward, contested jumpers from 15-plus feet away and has contributed to making the Pistons the league’s slowest and lowest-scoring team.
It might be time for Frank to have an offense-only practice. The team clearly misses Rodney Stuckey, who for all his flaws takes care of the basketball and gets to the free-throw line. And a healthy Charlie Villanueva or any player that could help space the floor and take an open 3-pointer would be nice.
Following an early season rough patch, the Mavericks have won three of four and have done it with their typical blend of offensive balance and solid team defense. In Dallas’ previous game, a 91-86 victory against the New Olreans Hornets, the Mavericks’ top scorer had 13 points (Vince Carter) while their seventh-leading scorer had 9 points (Lamar Odom).
Keys to the Game:
Welcome to Moose-port -- While Brandon Knight clearly isn’t ready to inherit the point guard duties from the injured Stuckey, Greg Monroe just might be. More and more of the offense is working through Monroe, who is finally showing the awesome passing ability he so often displayed while at Georgetown. Last season was about learning the rigors of the NBA, playing defense, cleaning up the glass and not getting any plays called for him. This year, more and more of the load is being put on Monroe’s shoulders and he is shining, including being the lone bright spot in the Chicago game with 14 points and a career-high six assists. Make them shoot long two-point jumpers Dallas’ offense has always been about ball movement and finding the open man. Often that means open three pointers and Dirk Nowitzki just making the ridiculous shots that he does. But the Mavericks can be goaded into shooting jumpers and this year they aren’t falling. While 74 percent of the Mavs’ shots are jumpers, they are only converting 41.4 percent, fourth-worst in the league.
Don’t foul, get fouled -- The Pistons don’t get to the line much, but Dallas is prone to put opponents on the line and Detroit should push the issue. The Pistons need easy buckets, especially with their recent offensive struggles. Dallas puts opponents on the line 33.4 times per game (fifth-most in the league) and the Pistons have plenty of good foul shooters.
ABD -- Anybody but Dirk. Last season in two meetings against the Pistons, Nowitzki averaged 37 points and 8.5 rebounds. Don’t let that happen again. Seriously.
Question(s) of the Game:
Will the Pistons have more assists than turnovers? If so it would be the first time in three games. Will Greg Monroe be the best distributor on the floor with Kidd and Stuckey out? Will Brandon Knight drive the lane and get to the free throw line?.