GAME TIME: 7:30 PM ET
Hornets: 23-13 (11-8 Road)
Margin: +3.2 ppg
Last 10: 6-4 (margin +2.3)
Pistons: 22-16 (12-6 Home)
Margin: +0.1 ppg
Last 10: 5-5 (margin -1.0)
ESPN's game preview posits that "A visit from Chris Paul and the Hornets (23-13) might be just what Detroit needs to pick up a win." Um, yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking.
How good is Chris Paul? Good enough to drag a sure-fire lottery team to a top four seed in the Western Conference, for starters. Paul is in the midst of the best season in the history of the point guard position. Earlier this week, he nearly posted a quadruple-double against Dallas (33 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, 7 steals). So yeah, he's pretty good.
The rest of the Hornets suck. Tyson Chandler has reverted to his Chicago Bulls form. David West has returned to Earth. Peja is having the worst season of his career. With a PER of 13.80, James Posey is far and away their third best player. Basically, the Hornets sit at the three-point line to see if Paul will pass it to them. Whatever works.
And with the team shooting 39% from three point range, it does, in fact, kinda work.
After last night's loss to the Thunder, I think I'll take the suicide jokes off the table. Wouldn't want to push anyone over the edge.
Keys for Detroit:
Man the perimeter: Stopping Chris Paul's dribble penetration is obviously vitally important. But the Hornets are a very good three point shooting team, and so are able to capitalize on Paul's unique ability to deform the defense. Paul is going to get his, but this team can still be stopped.
Put Prince on Peja: I don't care if it means putting Rip on David West. You have a defender who can help in the lane and still close out on a three point shooter. You do not put him on a guy whose specialty is mid-range jumpshooting. Seriously.
Make Paul work on D: Paul isn't a great defender, and Tyson Chandler isn't a great shot-blocker. Stuckey had a tough game last night, but that should not discourage him from taking it to the basket, which prevents Paul from playing the passing lanes.
Question of the game:
Are the Pistons tanking? I don't mean tanking in the "let's insert Kwame at the point and go 24-58" sense. I do wonder whether smallball has been given an excessively long leash, with the understanding that piling up losses isn't necessarily such a bad thing in the short term. It sure makes a 2009 draft pick more enticing at the trade deadline, for example. And if it happens to somehow click, all the better.
I guess becoming a conspiracy theorist is the least depressing of options at the moment.