If the Detroit Pistons are looking for their first win of the season, Oklahoma City is not a friendly place to find it. It'll take a grand effort from every Piston in uniform tonight.
After five straight losses, you won't find much hope for redemption against the reigning Western Conference champions. A win tonight would require a valiant effort from all of Detroit's top players-- and a coach who is willing to experiment with his starting lineup and in-game rotations. If the status quo continues, this would be an easy one to mark in the loss column.
Fortunately for Pistons fans, the bright spot of the last two seasons appears to have put his starting struggles behind him. Over the last two games, Greg Monroe is averaging 24 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 51% shooting. Monroe can't play all five positions at once, but it looks like he sure is trying.
Game Tips at 8:00p.m. EST
Detroit Pistons: 0 - 5 (0-4 road)
Oklahoma City Thunder: 3 - 2 (2-1 home)
Kevin Martin is making it very difficult for those who criticized the James Harden trade, at least for the moment. Martin has started the season shooting 64% from three, getting to the line six times per contest while shooting 94% on free throws, and is averaging 18 points on 9 shots per game. If you're a fan of advanced stats, that's a .77 TS%, and that is nasty. It's also unsustainable, but who's to say it won't continue for another night?
Beyond Martin (and equally admirable play from Thabo Sefolosha), the rest of the Thunder don't look to be the exciting, dominant team they were last season. Kevin Durant is registering the same 38.6 minutes per game he carried last season but he's attempting nearly four less shots per night. Much of this is coming from his three point shooting, which is starting the season off at a weak 27% on a few less attempts per game. Durant seems to be deferring more, and it has shown in an increase in assists with nearly 5 turnovers per game. It's been a rough start for last season's scoring champion, and the guy at the top so far this season is his ex-teammate James Harden.
Then there's Russell Westbrook. He's shooting 37% from the field while attempting the most three point shots per game in his career-- where he is shooting only 23%. So far, Durant and Westbrook just seem like they're missing something... or someone.
Worry not. They play the Detroit Pistons tonight, the Mother Teresa of the NBA. Like so many teams before, Detroit will nurse them back to health. Maybe even give them a foot massage or something.
I could use a foot massage.
Keys to the Game
Feed the Moose / Start the Bull / Free the Swede - It's my 2012-13 chorus. It might still be premature to start Andre Drummond, but let's get him some playing time alongside Greg Monroe up front. OKC's weakness is and always has been its frontcourt, so a pair of twin 7-foot towers would give Detroit a nice strength tonight. Also, Tayshaun Prince on Kevin Durant? We already know how that will turn out. Let's give Jonas Jerebko and Kyle Singler a shot.
Change Up the Backcourt - So far this season, only Will Bynum and Kim English are doing what they are supposed to do in the backcourt. Kim English is shooting 50% from the perimeter and Will Bynum is sporting a 39% assist rate. If the ball isn't moving and the shots aren't falling, there's a better option than letting Knight and Stuckey shoot us out of games.
That's pretty much it. It's time for some experimentation, it's time to try some new things with the pieces Detroit already has. It's clear who is performing this season and it's clear who isn't. If Detroit continues with more of the same in their rotations, the outcome will be more of the same as well.
Question of the Game:
If Detroit approaches the 4-20 start that it had last season, could the Detroit Pistons coaching carousel see another victim? It would be the third consecutive season where Lawrence Frank reached 16 losses before his fifth win.