Long. Smooth. Strokey. - Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
For the first time this season, the Pistons take on the new-look Nets. The old-look Nets have struggled agains the Pistons in recent memory, but Detroit has struggled mightily on the road. Once again, the underdog Pistons have their work cut out.
Game tips at 7:30pm EST
Detroit Pistons: 7-17 (2-11 road)
Brooklyn Nets: 12-9 (7-5 home)
No sugarcoat, the Pistons suck on the road, and the better-than-average Nets are better-than-average at home. Once again, the Pistons are coming off of a very disappointing loss - which saw them blow a 17-point lead - and once again, the Pistons are significant underdogs.
On the flip side, Brooklyn looks a lot like a Playoff team. They've lost five of their last 7, but Brook Lopez is expected to return to the lineup, after missing over two weeks with a sprained right foot. Brooklyn presents match-up problems at every single position.
Starting with Brook Lopez - dude's been playing pretty good basketball this year. Lopez is the kind of player statheads like me like to criticize. Yes, he has always scored lots of points, but he scores lots of points by taking lots of shots. And equally important for a Center, his rebounding numbers have been atrocious. This year, Lopez is shooting better, boarding better, and blocking shots better. Here's a thought - let's try putting Andre Drummond on him, just for a second, just to see how it feels.
To make things more difficult, Andray Blatche is playing the best basketball of his career. Kris Humphries continues to do what Kris Humphries does. And Reggie Evans rebounds everything that comes his way - of all players who've played more than 100 minutes this season, Reggie leads them all in total rebound percentage.
Small Forward is currently the Nets' weakest position. Gerald Wallace is still a very competent, versatile player and sees the bulk of the minutes at this position, with piecemeal minutes distributed among the other SGs and SFs on the roster.
All in all, that's a very solid frontcourt that poses all sorts of problems for the Pistons.
Turning to the backcourt, it doesn't get any easier. Joe Johnson isn't what he used to be, and Deron Williams hasn't been as good for the Nets as he was for the Jazz, but both are very tough covers. Deron Williams in particular will put Brandon Knight's and Rodney Stuckey's on-the-ball defense to the test all night long. C.J. Watson and Marshon Brooks haven't seen big minutes backing up the starting due, but both are also very effective.
Oh yeah, 38 year old former Piston Jerry Stackhouse seems is playing remarkably solid basketball in a limited role.
All in all, that's a very solid backcourt that poses all sorts of problems for the Pistons.
Keys to the Game
Play Monroe and Drummond together. I argued that Andre Drummond has been the most productive rookie on a per minute basis according to the stats. Tonight is a perfect opportunity to put that argument to the test. The Nets' frontcourt scores and rebounds well; Drummond and Monroe are the best counter-punch Frank has.
Contain dribble penetration. Put another way, don't let Deron Williams go wherever he wants, whenever he wants. Deron has too many weapons around him if he's allowed to break down the Piston D.
Push the tempo. Brooklyn is very comfortable in the half-court setting. They're also one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the Association. On the flip side, Detroit is one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league; that has to change tonight. Keep the Nets off the offensive glass, make solid outlet passes, and force Brooklyn to defend on transition.
Question of the Game
When will Lawrence Frank take DBB's collective advice and play Drummond big minutes?