The Detroit Pistons have won four in a row and six of their last seven -- their only loss being a double-overtime defeat in Atlanta. The schedule has slowed down for the Pistons and suddenly they look like a much more competent team. This is the final Pistons game until Jan. 11 so they better make it count.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, are definitely trending in the wrong direction. After a surprising 7-5 start, Charlotte has lost 19 of 20. They have the league's worst defense and even that doesn't do complete justice to their ineptitude. The Bobcats give up the most points in the NBA in the first, second and third quarters. But they manage to climb up to mediocre in the fourth quarter when their opponents empty the bench and let their scrubs fire away.
So what do the Bobcats have? Well, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been everything hoped of him in his first season and could really shine once the team gets legitimate players around him. Charlotte is also home to former Piston Ben Gordon, who Detroit sent away along with a first-round draft pick. Ironically, since Gordon's departure the Pistons haven't gotten much of any production from their shooting guard spot. Does that mean we should want Gordon back?
Not a chance.
Despite decent shooting numbers, including his standard 40+-percent from 3-point range, and despite being on a team starved for shooting, Gordon is averaging just 22 minutes per game, good for eighth on the Bobcats. Basically, he is bringing all the good and bad he brought to Detroit. An inability to do anything except hit jump shots and sometimes get smoking hot and tantalize you with a 30-point performance.
The Bobcats are also home to Ramon Sessions. Sessions, that playmaking point guard the Pistons are desperate for, is actually having his worst season since 2009 but he'd still be the best point guard in Detroit by a country mile. Because he lacks teammates he can distribute to for easy scores he is focusing more on his own offense. He is attempting the most shots in his career and converting at a 40-percent clip from 2 and 30 percent from 3. Sounds like a great buy-low opportunity for Detroit!
Keys to the Game:
Own the Paint: Charlotte's big men are terrible, relying mostly on Brendan Haywood, Bismack Biyombo and Hakim Warrick. They give up 43 points in the paint per game (27th-worst in the NBA) and want to play small ball as much as possible. When the Pistons have played well it usually means that both their big men and their guards are converting easy opportunities inside. Oh yeah, they are also the worst rebounding team in the league. Greg Monroe should have his way against the Bobcat big men and Andre Drummond should show the NBA world that he and not MKG belongs in the Rookie of the Year conversation along with Damian Lillard.
Bombs away from the bench: The Bobcats allow opponents to hit 39 percent from long range. The Pistons bench is anchored by the defense of Drummond but Lawrence Frank surrounds him with 3-point shooters -- Austin Daye, Charlie Villanueva and even Will Bynum (at least this season).
Brandon Knight: Knight matches up well offensively against the Charlotte defense. He should be able to find himself open on the perimeter and use his speed to get into the paint. Defensively, however, both Kemba Walker and Sessions have the talent to light him up. But as much as Knight has struggled to do point guard things I do think he has started to take big steps toward being a better defender. In the Pistons' win against Atlanta, Knight was able to stay in front of Jeff Teague all game and rarely found himself out of position.
The Bobcats only chance hinges on their point guards controlling the flow of the game and putting their teammates in a position to convert easy opportunities. It will be up to Knight to limit their effectiveness.
Question of the Game:
How can we get our hands on that reserve point guard in Charlotte ... what's his name again? It is escaping me.