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Pistons at Rockets: Knight Needs to Step Up Tonight

The Detroit Pistons had a bumpy flight Monday, eventually needing to make an emergency landing, but thankfully avoided a "We are Marshall" scenario, and are in Houston to take on the Rockets.

The Rockets are riding a three-game winning streak, scoring 108 points per game in that span. Luckily for the Pistons, while Houston's offense is on the rise it still struggles mightily on the defensive end, with the sixth-worst defensive efficiency in the NBA. Of course, the Pistons own the league's second-worst mark so it could be a relatively high-scoring affair at the Toyota Center (First one to 90 points wins!).

The Pistons, well, they are one of the league's worst teams and I don't see that changing any time in the foreseeable future. Detroit is still without Charlie Villanueva, who didn't make the trip with the team, Will Bynum, who is day-to-day, and Rodney Stuckey is still less than 100 percent following his recent groin injury. No relying on math science to trick myself into getting my hopes up about this game.

Game Tips at 8:00 P.M. EST

Houston Rockets: 6 – 7 (4 – 1 home)

Detroit Pistons: 3 - 10 (1 - 6 away)

The Situation:

We're not quite one quarter of the way into the season, but it has become apparent that Detroit is one of the league's three or four worst teams. That could pay dividends on draft night but will make for some unsightly games in the meantime.

With that being said, games are less about wins and losses in Detroit and more about growth and maturation of individuals and the team. Hopefully players such as Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight grow from game to game, and hopefully the team's record in the second quarter of the season is better than their record in the first quarter. And hopefully their third quarter of games is better than the second and the fourth better than the third.

In Houston's last game, a 114-106 victory against the Washington Wizards, John Wall had a field day. The lightning fast point guard scored a season-high 38 points, including going 7-9 at the rim. The Pistons could use a night like that from Knight. Which leads us to the ...

Keys to the Game:

Brandon Knight Must Have a Big Game -- Knight is going to have his hands full trying to defend Kyle Lowry. Lowry is having a career year in nearly every statistical category and could eviscerate Detroit's porous interior defense. Knight is going to have to stay in front of Lowry to keep him out of the paint and stop the defense from collapsing. Knight will also have to take better care of the ball, which will be a challenge as Lowry averages more than two steals per game. Knight is going to have to get into the teeth of the defense while also accounting for the shot-blocking presence of Samuel Dalembert.

No Second Chances -- Houston is an excellent rebounding team, especially on the offensive end. They don't shoot for a terribly high percentage, especially if you can keep Lowry and the pesky Luis Scola out of the paint. The Pistons, as daunting a task as it is, need to win the board war to have a shot at winning this game.

Make Kevin Martin Work on D -- Martin is a nice offensive player, but he is not a good defender, to put it kindly. Rodney Stuckey and/or Ben Gordon needs to be aggressive and score in bunches.

Monroe's Big Test -- Greg Monroe has been a monster lately, but facing off against Samuel Dalembert will be a new kind of test. While Dalembert isn't the defender he once was, he can still block shots and is an imposing presence in the middle. Monroe might be tempted to settle for his jump shot, which, while improved, is not nearly his most effective shot. Monroe needs to face up and use his quick first step.

And while Dalembert isn't known for his offense, he can be effective against teams with poor post defense. That is exactly what he did against the Wizards, scoring 20 points on 9-11 shooting. Monroe, Jonas Jerebko and Jason Maxiell have all struggled on the defensive end and they can't allow Dalembert or others to get easy points.

Question(s) of the Game:

Can Brandon Knight do more than shoot 3-pointers? Can the Pistons score more than 100 points? Can Greg Monroe continue his dominance on the offensive end? And this is a prediction not a question: Austin Daye will have a breakout game with double digit points and 2+ 3-point makes. So the question is, am I crazy?