This is not a must-win game. Not exactly. The Detroit Pistons are scuffling, yes, but they've also faced one of the toughest schedules in the league. The teams the Pistons have lost to have a winning percentage of 68.29. The Kings, on the other hand, have a winning percentage of 28.6, the same as Detroit.
And if you look at the 26 games between now and the end of the year, you don't see too many sure losses. Detroit play the Bulls and Heat twice, the Timberwolves and the Pacers. Everything else is more evenly matched ... that is, unless Detroit truly is one of the worst teams in the NBA.
But that doesn't mean the Kings are going to be pushovers. Fresh off his maximum extension, Demarcus Cousins is having his best season as a pro. He's still flawed (and still not as good as Greg Monroe), but he's become the focal point of the Kings offense, he's more aggressive and crucially he's also cut down on his turnovers.
The Kings problem is a dearth of other offensive contributors. Their most effective player has been the perennially discounted and disrespected Isaiah Thomas. It seems like every year the Kings look to replace him as their starting point guard and every year he outplays the competition. This year that remains true, though Greivis Vasquez seems to be doing just fine for himself. The former Pelican is dishing out 6.9 assists to just 1.6 turnovers so far.
As a team the Kings don't set off any red flags considering all the areas Detroit has been struggling in. They don't do too much damage in the paint, with Cousins preferring either a perimeter shot or bullying his way to the free-throw line. And they also give up 36.9 points in the paint while also playing being near the bottom of the NBA in pace, meaning there should be ample opportunity for Detroit to score inside.
The Kings also don't do much damage at the 3-point line while being one of the worst 3-point defensive teams in the league (surrendering nearly 40 percent from deep).
Keys to the Game
Monroe vs. Cousins -- These players will be forever linked as they are both big men from the same draft class and selected just two spots apart (Cousins No. 5 and Monroe No. 7). Previous matchups have been hard-fought, but Monroe has generally come out on top. Moose is averaging 15.2 points and 56.7 percent shooting and 9.5 rebounds while Cousins is averaging 17 points on 46.6 percent shooting and 10.5 boards. And most importantly, the Pistons are 5-1 in head-to-head matchups featuring the two.
Pistons rotation -- Who's in and who's out has been a hot topic among Pistons fans. With little-used players such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Luigi Datome getting so much run in Detroit's blowout loss to the Warriors, will tonight feature a new-look lineup?
3-point shooting -- Both teams are dreadful from deep this season and the Kings have only three players that have hit at a respectable rate -- Travis Outlaw, Thomas and rookie Ben McLemore. The Pistons, meanwhile, need to finally see some long-range attempts actually go in, and as mentioned the Kings' 3-point D is dreadful.
Who is taking, and making, shots will be an important bellwether for the game. If Marcus Thornton, who takes seven 3s per game but converts at only 31.6 percent, starts connecting on everything then it's probably a sign you should go to bed early or fire up Netflix.
Questions of the Game
Starters? Reserves? Minute allocations? Go!