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Pistons Host Knicks: Battle in the Frontcourt

The Pistons return to the Palace tonight and are likely to be without the services of Rodney Stuckey (groin) and Ben Gordon (personal reasons) for the second straight game. The Daye and Knight backcourt needs to play its way out of the night and into the day...

Okay, that's just gotta stop.

Game tips at 7:30pm EST (on FS Plus for the local markets).

Detroit Pistons: 2-5 (2-2 home)

New York Knicks: 3-4 (2-2 road)

The Situation:

After a thrilling NBA season opener against Boston, New York has played exactly how one might expect a team led by Amare Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony to play. Remarkably unremarkable.

Although in fairness, you can't blame Melo (at least, not this year). He's playing some of the best basketball of his career this season. He's scoring nearly 30 points per contest, rebounding and passing as well as he ever has, and as a result, posting career bests in Wins Shares and Wins Produced per 48 minutes, as well as Offensive Rating. For the moment at least, Melo's complete game is living up to the hype.

(Good thing we have Tayshuan to slow him down, amirite?)

New York's struggles to get over the .500 hump boil down to the play of Amare Stoudamire. His 19 points and 8 boards per contest are deceiving. Those 19 points come from lots of shots - he's shooting worse than he has since his rookie season, posting a pedestrian 46.3 eFG%. For a Power Forward, that's bad. He still gets to the line a lot, but his poor shooting has led to career lows in Wins Shares and Wins Produced per 48 minutes, as well as Offensive Rating as a result.

Tyson Chandler hasn't turned the Knicks into a defensive powerhouse, but he is playing good basketball. Many wondered if last season were merely a fluke that could be attributed to playing alongside Dirk Nowtizki and Jason Kidd. So far, that hasn't been the case. Chandler continues to score efficiently (roomer has it, he likes slam dunk shots), rebound the ball, and block shots. Oh yeah, he's also sporting a ridiculous 145 Offensive Rating. What more could you ask for from your starting Centre?

The Pistons will have their hands full up front, to put it mildly. Fortunately, things look a little better in the backcourt.

Last night's game on the road against Phildelphia had even me wishing for Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey. Yeah, it was that bad. The three-guard rotation of Brandon Knight, Austin Daye, and Will Bynum was far from cohesive, combining for 10-35 shooting, 7 turnovers, and only 9 assists.

Against the Knicks, this trio has a real chance at redemption against a struggling Knicks backcourt. The Knicks are essentially playing without a point guard (Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby). When you're pining for Baron Davis to get healthy, you know it's bad. Knight and Bynum should be able to get into the paint almost at will.

At shooting guard, Landry Fields is off to a slow start. Don't leave him wide open, and he won't kill you. Iman Shumpert, on the other hand, has started strong, and his slashing style of play could pose problems for Austin Daye.

Keys to the Game

Stay out of foul trouble. The Knicks starting front court is shooting nearly 23 free throws per game so far this season. Defending without fouling is always easier said than done, but it's particularly important tonight for the Pistons to have a chance. Moose and Jerebko can't carry the team from the bench.

Penetrate and pitch. Yes, last night's guard play was ugly. If there was an upside, though, it came from Brandon Knight who would have threatened double digit assist had anyone been able to knock down an open shot. Knight and Bynum should be able to get to the paint at will tonight, but they'll be greeted by one of the best defensive centres in the game when they get there. Collapsing the defense, drawing additional defenders, and then finding the open teammate could spell success, and a little bit of redemption, for the Piston point guards.

Rebound the basketball. The Pistons have outrebounded their opponents three times this year. They have won two of those games. Crash the glass, fellas.

Feed the Moose. Moose faces a worthy opponent in Tyson Chandler tonight. The best way to make things easy for him would be early and frequent foul trouble for Chandler. Aggressive but controlled attacks from the Pistons guards as describe above, coupled with getting it to Moose early and often just might do the trick. If we can get Chandler out of the paint and force him to move, Moose should have ample room to operate.

Question(s) of the Game

Does Charlie Villanueva still play for the Pistons? Is this Austin's Daye's last chance to prove himself? Does anyone actually have FS Plus? Will you be watching this game instead of the Lions? Or will you find a clever way to do both? So many questions, so little time.

What are yours?