Tonight, the Pistons will conclude a back-to-back-to-back, courtesy of the generous NBA owners. Cramming 66 games into an abbreviated schedule was genius enough, but forcing teams to play on the road for three consecutive nights? Brilliant. Oh yeah, the Nets also played on the road last night in Indiana, where the Pacers had their way during the second half.
Two bad teams on tired legs. What more could a fan ask for? Quantity over quality is always the best way to please your consumer base.
But I digress.
Game Tips at 7:30pm EST
Detroit Pistons: 4 - 19 (1 - 11 road *shudder*)
New Jersey Nets: 7 - 15 (2 - 6 home)
Both of these teams suck. Both teams lost on the road last night, and this game is even more likely to be ugly as a result. Additionally, both teams are depleted by injury. The Nets have been without their starting centre, Brook Lopez, all season and recently lost promising rookie MarShon Brooks to a foot injury. Former Piston Mehmet Okur is a shadow of who he was while wearing the Red, White, and Piston Blue, but he's also out with a bad back. The Pistons remain without the services of Will Bynum, Ben Gordon, and Charlie Villanueva.
However, the Nets are playing at home - the Pistons have only won one game on the road - and they have Deron Williams. That may be enough to tip the scale in their favor.
By the advanced metrics, Deron Williams is having a bit of a down year, due largely to a decline in offensive efficiency (i.e., shooting efficiency and turnovers). However, he's still as dangerous as they come, as he demonstrated last night in Indiana where he dropped 34 points (on 20 shots) and dished out 7 assists. Knight, Stuckey, and Russell will all get a chance to try slowing Williams down, and they'll certainly have their hands full. Pick and roll fer days, if I'm Avery Johnson.
Williams is the obvious focal point of the Nets' offense, and he's equally dangerous creating for himself or others, but he's not the only threat the Pistons will need to keep in check.
Many believed Kris Humphries was a one-hit wonder. On the basketball court, at least, this doesn't appear to be the case. He's following up last year's career season by averaging a double double this year -- scoring just under 13 points and grabbing just under 11 boards per contest. Say what you will about his antics off the court, Kris Humphries is the type of bruising, blue-collar big man I'd welcome as a Pistons every day of the week. The Pistons have had a habit of making guys like him look like All Stars over the past couple seasons. Box him out, please.
The Nets also have weapons from behind the arc, which will keep the Pistons perimeter defenders from helping on Williams' penetration. Sharp-shooting Anthony Morrow is coming off an excellent shooting performance in Indiana, scoring 28 points on 17 shots, including 5-8 from behind the long line. Jordan Farmar is having a quietly good season, shooting a blistering 46% from deep. With the injury to Brooks, Farmar should see time at both guard spots off the bench. The Pistons can't afford to leave a hand down on these two, because we all know what happens after hand down...
Keys to the Game:
Contain dribble penetration: This, of course, is easier said than done, and of course, should be at the very top of the Pistons' scouting report. This Nets team isn't going to win many games if Deron Williams isn't playing well. The more the Pistons can do to make his life difficult, the better.
Pick up the pace: Please? Pretty please? Pretty, pretty please? The Pistons continue to play at the slowest pace in the league. Honestly, I have no idea if playing any faster will increase the chances of winning; bad basketball is bad basketball in slow motion or fast forward. But, I'd much rather watch this team get out on the break and attack quickly regardless of outcome than I would watch almost everything we've seen up to this point.
Move the ball: In the most ironic comment of the year (decade?), Tayshaun Prince is on to something. And while we're since we're talking about moving the ball, Tayshaun...
Feed the Moose: Kris Humphries, Shelden Williams, and Johan Petro. These three players are likely to play the majority of the Nets' frontcourt minutes. The implication is obvious, no? If I have to watch one more game where Tayshaun Prince shoots the ball more than Greg Monroe, I will whine, gripe, and RPBAR this game thread. This is not an empty threat. No one wants that. No. One.
Question of the Game:
There are six players on the Nets' roster that I had to look up, because I didn't have any idea who they were when I looked at their names. How many for you?