If there is a team in the league that could use a few new year's resolutions, it's the Detroit Pistons. Sure, things might be worse in New Jersey, Minnesota and D.C., but no one closed out the 2009 calendar year as poorly as our own boys in royal blue. After a nine game losing streak that saw the return of the pieces that might help turn the tide, the Pistons need to turn a corner-- and fast.
Sadly, the Pistons start off 2010 against the Western Conference's 2nd best team, a team Detroit has not defeated since Chauncey Billups was manning the point...
Game tips at 8:30 pm ET
Detroit Pistons: 11-21 (3-13 Road)
Dallas Mavericks: 23-11 (11-5 Home)
The Mavs are quietly putting together their best season since 2006-07, on pace to win 55 games and hold the second best record in the West. Dirk Nowitzki is putting up 25 and 8 per game, Erick Dampier is having his best season as a Maverick, Shawn Marion is helping the Mavs to their best defensive performance in years and Jason Kidd isn't even punching anybody. While the media is quick to praise the Lakers, the Mavericks are the primary Western Conference contender that Phil Jackson should really be worried about.
Last time the Pistons faced the Mavericks, Dallas was without Erick Dampier and Josh Howard. While Dallas will be at full strength tonight, Detroit will be without MFWB (for the uninitiated, that stands for "Maverick Fooler Will Bynum"), who scored 27 points, 17 in the fourth quarter alone.
When you've lost your last nine games, the drama factor falls to zero.
Keys for Detroit
Ben Gordon Needs Redemption - While he had a great stretch to open the season, it all fell apart against Dallas. On November 15th, Ben shot 1-16 from the field in 41 minutes. While Richard Hamilton will be there to share the brunt of the work at the 2 guard, Ben needs to redeem his play against the Mavs tonight.
Guard the Perimeter - The Mavs guards shot 50% from the three point line in our last meeting. Having Rip and Tayshaun should help in this regard, but Stuckey needs to clamp down on Jason Kidd as well-- 63% of Kidd's attempts occur from outside the stripe.
Frontcourt Scoring - Surprised? Our last effort against the Mavs was above average for the Pistons, as Charlie Villanueva and Ben Wallace combined for 22 points. That alone won't cut it, and if Charlie Villanueva can pick a time to step up and brush off that nagging plantar faciitis, tonight is the night.
Question of the Game
What are we fans more interested in at this point-- a chance for a rare road win... or a chance at the lottery?
Extending the BRGulker Olive Branch
Be sure to check out the coverage from the other side of the court, courtesy of our SB Nation brothers over at MavsMoneyball. While they might root for the wrong team, they run a great publication and deserve your respect should you pay them a visit.