The Detroit Pistons hit the road for the first time this season and it's a rough trip -- six games in nine days against the following opponents: Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets.
I see two winnable games on that list -- tonight at Phoenix and in Sacramento. Only problem is that the Kings game is on the second night of a back to back and even worse, the previous game is in the thin air of Denver. That means if the Pistons lose tonight they are looking at a possible 0-7 start to the season.
Game Tips at 10 p.m.
The Suns have completely remade their roster, with three new members in their starting lineup and nine new players on the team this season. Gone are Steve Nash and Grant Hill and in are Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and noted Pistons killer Luis Scola.
Just because all the household names are gone doesn't mean this is an automatic win for the Pistons. Dragic has the ability to slice and dice through the Pistons defense and Marcin Gortat and Scola can do some efficient damage against Detroit's porous defense.
This should provide a good opportunity for all of Detroit's players to redeem themselves following the Halloween-night loss to Houston at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Just like Detroit, Phoenix also has a porous defense and the Pistons match up well against the Suns' players.
Also, with the Suns just now starting a rebuilding project, this season's roster is pretty cobbled together. Nowhere is that more apparent than looking at the Phoenix bench.
The Suns are counting on P.J. Tucker, Shannon Brown, Markieff Morris, Jermaine O'Neal and Sebastian Telfair to give them quality minutes. This is a great opportunity for the Pistons' crop of rookies, especially Andre Drummond, to have a strong game and help Detroit find the W column.
Keys to the Game
Protect the perimeter -- Brandon Knight is going to have to contain Dragic so that the Suns have to work for their shots. Also, Rodney Stuckey is going to need to watch his man and resist the temptation to leak off and help down low because Dudley can knock down shots when left open. I expect both Pistons guards to have much better offensive performances tonight but unless they shore up some of their defensive liabilities it isn't going to matter much.
The better bench -- As mentioned above the Suns bench is like a MASH unit of bandaids on the gaping wound that is the Phoenix organization. They pissed away their contending years and didn't set themselves up for their rebuild. Now, they have cobbled together a collection of players that they hope can somehow click into place. The Pistons reserves, largely rookies, need to step on the gas and increase any lead or cut into any deficit in a major way. It is the best chance for Detroit to come away with the win.
Bull-Moose party -- As mentioned above both Gortat and Scola have the ability to put up points against the Pistons but this game is a great chance for Drummond and Monroe to put up some serious points on the scoreboard. Scola's not very athletic and O'Neal just doesn't have much game left in him. Markieff Morris can be a solid defender but he is nowhere near the athlete Drummond and even Monroe are. Both can have big games as they play smart and don't rush their opportunities.
Don't let Michael Beasley go off -- Beasley has been a largely inconsistent and disappointing NBA player but he has nights where he can fill up the stat sheet. He has 10 games in his career where he's scored 30+ points and 76 of scoring 20+. When he struggles he doesn't necessarily stop shooting as was evident in the season's first game when he was just 2 of 9. The Pistons need to make sure tonight's game looks a lot like the latter.
Questions of the Game
Who will be the first guard off the bench for Detroit? Can Andre Drummond provide more than he did in Game No. 1?