Game Tips Off at 7:30 P.M. EST
Detroit Pistons: 17-30 (5-20 road)
New York Knickerbockers: 24-22 (12-9 home)
Both the Pistons and the Knicks will be playing short-handed tonight, possibly without their respective leading scorers. Rodney Stuckey is still out of Detroit's lineup with a shoulder injury, and Amar'e Stoudemire left Friday's loss to Atlanta with a knee sprain. While Detroit can continue to, uh, perform without Rodney Stuckey (mumbles something about "mistake" and "resign"), there's no question that the Pistons would enjoy the news that The Big Free Throw will not suit up for the Knicks tonight.
Beyond Stuckey and The Big Apostrophe, the Pistons will be without Ben Wallace (family matters) and Rip Hamilton (...flu), and the Knicks will play without Shawne Williams (suspension).
The Knicks have put together their first winning record since 2000-01, when Jeff Van Gundy was coaching a team led by Allan Houston, Marcus Camby and the perpetually hungry Latrell Sprewell. In February, they're likely to eclipse last season's win total thanks to the additions of Raymond Felton, Landry Fields and Amar'e Stoudemire.
Felton is having a season of most-improved candidacy, putting up 17 points and 9 assists in 39 minutes per game. Landry Fields is looking like a top 5 value from the 2010 draft, leading all Knicks starters in true shooting percentage and defensive rebounding rate. Fields, as the Knick's starting shooting guard, put up 19 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists against the Heat last week.
Amar'e Stoudemire is doing what he does best-- getting to the free throw line and filling up the scoreboard, despite having taken a step back on shooting efficiency across the floor. Despite Stoudemire's status as the centerpiece of the Knick's franchise, he's still not a 20-10 big man, as an aversion to rebounding has him 88th in the league amongst active players in defensive rebounding percentage. Fortunately for the Knicks, the contributions of Landry Fields and Wilson Chandler have helped keep the team in the middle of the pack on the glass.
Keys to the Game:
Pray that Amar'e Doesn't Dress: If Stoudemire sits out tonight's game, the Pistons have a great chance to add a check mark to the win column. However, if New York needs to find a different first option, the Pistons will want to avoid giving Landry Fields his first career 30-point night.
Guard the Perimeter: The Knicks attempt the second most three-pointers in the league, just shy of the Orlando Magic. They shot 38 (!) three-pointers against the Pistons in an overtime win in November, adding enough extra points for a nine point victory.
Feed the Moose: If Stoudemire is out tonight, New York's frontcourt rotation will include only Ronny Turiaf and Wilson Chandler. This is a game where Pistons guards should be looking for Monroe early and often, a chance to allow The Monroad Warrior to show off his offense.
Question of the Game:
Playoffs or not? Each game is becoming a bit more decisive, as Detroit hangs in the balance between the 8th seed fist-fight and the lottery pick chess match. I, for one, want both?
Links for Lox: