After winning running away against Maccabi Haifa, the Pistons get their first true test of the preseason tonight against the Miami Heat. And truth be told, there is no better litmus test for a team that thinks it has improved than to face off against the defending NBA champions.
It is just a preseason game, and an early one at that, so the learning lessons won't be many, but it is a great opportunity for Detroit's new-look lineup to run with the big dogs and see how they measure up. Plus, it's a great opportunity for the moribund Pistons fan base to warm up their pipes and boo LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company mercilessly.
Keys to the Game
Josh Smith vs. LeBron James -- Smith was gifted $13.5 million precisely for matchups like this. Smith might not be a prototypical small forward, but then again neither is James. Smith will get his first opportunity to shut down a perimeter and post threat. And by shut down, I mean make work for his inevitable 20+ points. Also worth keeping an eye on is Smith's 3-point stroke. How many does he take? How many does he make? Going 3-for-4 in Detroit's first game might have been nice to see, but there will be nights where he can't hit any long-range shots. So the trick is, will he be smart enough to stop taking shots on those nights?
Andre Drummond vs. Dwyane Wade -- An unlikely matchup, you say? Well, in a year with few highlights that particular matchup provided one of my favorite moments of the year.
KCP vs. Stuckey -- Hearing that rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is on the outside looking in of the battle to be the team's starting shooting guard was disheartening. Hearing that Rodney Stuckey might get the nod was truly distressing. And I don't dislike Rodney Stuckey as a player. Rather, I know that having Stuck be the starting shooting guard is setting him and his team up for failure. Instead, Stuckey should be the lead ball handler of the second unit. Give him the rock and let him create. It's the only way he'll provide any serious value to the team. But if he's asked to be a perimeter floor spacer with the starting unit -- ugh. It'll look a lot like it did last season. But Stuckey will get his chances tonight, as will KCP who is coming off a dreadful preseason debut (1 for 12 shooting) that looked a lot like his Summer League debut. He bounced back in Orlando, will he do the same this preseason? Can he do it in time to get serious consideration for the starting nod?
Speaking of shooting guards, it would be nice if ANY of Detroit's possible shooting guards would, you know, make a basket or two. The trio of KCP, Stuckey and Chauncey Billups combined to shoot 2 for 22 against Maccabi.
Question of the Game
Detroit was dreadful from 3-point land in preseason game no. 1 (5 for 26). How do they fare tonight?