The Detroit Pistons are looking to get your Thanksgiving weekend started off right by beating Central Division rival Chicago Bulls. The Pistons are in the midst of their first winning streak of the season (a modest two games) while Chicago has lost four in a row. Two of those losses have come AD (After Derrick), including a 121-82 shellacking at the hands of the Clippers and a heartbreaking 89-83 loss to the lowly Jazz.
Detroit will be looking to take full advantage of a break going there way in the schedule for the first time this season -- The Bulls are, or were, clearly the better team before Rose went down, and they should still be a better now. But Chicago is still trying to come to terms with there situation and haven't given their best the past two games. That might be psychological or it might be because in addition to missing Rose, the team is also without one of its only other reliable offensive options in Jimmy Butler, who is expected to be out a couple more weeks with a sprained toe.
And this year's Bulls team is desperate for Butler's offense, or any offense, really. The team is a sparkling as ever on defense (3rd in the NBA), but they are a bottom-five offensive club. Against Utah, the combination of Kirk Hinrich, Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy combined for 13 points, five rebounds, seven assists, five turnovers and one steal in a combined 96 minutes of action. Needless to say, no team can rely so much on Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah for their offense.
Detroit, meanwhile, is looking to build some honest to goodness momentum for the first time this season. The starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are coming off their best game of the season. Against his former squad, Jennings put up 15 points and 13 assists, mostly in the first half, and was a real spark plug that got the offense moving. The biggest beneficiary of that spark was KCP, who finally got his shot to fall consistently and played some smart, high-energy defense. He finished with 14 points, three assists and two steals.
Combine that with the consistent bench production of Rodney Stuckey and the Pistons was competent and fun to watch. Expect to see more Charlie Villanueva as Maurice Cheeks continues cycling through big men as he waits for one of them to produce consistently. Hopefully joining him will be Josh Harrellson who plays controlled defense, challenges well, is always in the right spot and can actually run the pick and roll or pick and pop appropriately. He's been an underrated breath of fresh air in limited minutes.
A win vaults the Pistons past the Bulls into second place in the
Eastern Conference Central Division! At 7-8! But I'll take it!
Keys to the Game
Bulls big men -- The Pistons have had a habit of letting big men dominate them in the paint for long stretches, and Noah has delivered such whoopings in the past. But his offensive game isn't that strong and the Pistons shouldn't let Noah get anything easy. His frontcourt mate Carlos Boozer will also asked to shoulder a heavy offensive load. I'm worried about Detroit defense on Boozer as they have had nasty habit of leaving quality mid-range jump shooters like Booz wide open. If he starts hitting everything from 15-18 feet, it could be a long night.
Brandon Jennings -- What does Jennings do for an encore? The Bulls defense is still top notch, and Hinrich can force opponents into a lot of mistakes. And Jennings is prone to a mistake or two, if you haven't noticed. With Chicago's offense being so challenged, there will be an opportunity for Detroit to build a cushion and hopefully take Chicago out of the game early. But Jennings will have to play smart basketball to make it happen. No bad shots, no risky drives into the paint and always looking to get his teammates quality looks.
Mike Dunleavy -- Dunleavy has a limited offensive game, but what he can still do is spot up or use screens to create open looks from 3. Josh Smith can't let himself get distracted by Boozer or Noah and has to stay glued to his man on the perimeter. If not, Dunleavy could turn back the clock and explode for 20+ points, including 5+ 3-pointers.
Questions of the Game
Favorite traditional Thanksgiving food? Favorite nontraditional Thanksgiving food?