Let us all stop and take a breath at what has been a very puzzling preseason, which will conclude tonight against the consensus tanksters Philadelphia 76ers. We have seen a coach who coaches, a point guard who passes, and power forward playing at power forward, and a Moose being moosey. It's been an offseason of change, with an abundance of new faces coming through the revolving doors at the Palace. Most importantly,
Hasheem Thabeet Stan Van Gundy has brought an aura of accountability to the franchise, as well as a beacon of hope that this will be the year that the longest playoff drought in the East (third-longest in the NBA, behind Minnesota [since 2004] and Sacramento ) is finally halted.
Where: Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
When: 7:30PM E.T. Thursday 23 October, 2014
Watch: Not televised. Radio: Detroit Sports 105.1 FM, or 97.5 The Fanatic (Philly)
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
Anyway, on to the game at hand, the swan song of a glorious preseason. Detroit comes into this one on the back of a strong 4th quarter showing (I know right!) to defeat the Hawks in Atlanta, 104-100. Andre Drummond led the way with 19 points and 17 rebounds, with Jennings producing a swag overload in the fourth to finish with 16 points and 11 assists. Josh Smith was an injury concern with his ankle but it appears he'll be ready to go, and the point guard stocks have been bolstered with the announcement that Spencer Dinwiddie will make his debut, with his minutes being capped at 20. There may also be a Pistons debut for newly acquired center Joel Anthony.
Philadelphia (2-5 in preseason play) enters after a 99-88 loss to the Nets. Perennial all-stars (or something) Tony Wroten and Henry Sims led the way with 13 points apiece, with Elliott Williams and Hollis Thompson adding 11 each (side note, Mason Plumlee had a monster game for Brooklyn, of Drummondian proportions, with 20 points and 17 rebounds). The Sixers are not good, and this is compounded by their injury worries. The fact that they're starting a D-Leaguer in Elliott Williams says it all (sorry any Sixers fans who read this). There's also the sad news of Joel Embiid's 13-year-old brother Arthur dying in Cameroon after being hit by a car. Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, a mentor of Embiid and fellow Cameroonian, accompanied the rookie to his homeland along with Embiid's sister, and his availability isn't known.
Players To Watch
Pistons: Spencer Dinwiddie
The only Piston not to receive preseason minutes, all the mystery of our 6'6" rookie combo guard will be unraveled tonight as he takes to the floor in his debut. Stan Van Gundy has said that his minutes will be capped to around 20, but expect him to be playing off the ball as he has the height and shooting touch to play the 2-guard slot, which is currently a position of weakness with the current injury crisis with Jodie Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With a strong showing here, and assuming he ends the game healthy, he may be in line to receive minutes on opening night next week against Denver. This game will be more about getting some actual game minutes and trying to shake off rust that has accumulated since January, but nonetheless, I'm excited to see our lone draft pick.
Sixers: Nerlens Noel (default)
Noel is probably one of 5-6 real NBA players on this Philly squad (along with MCW, Embiid and borderline Wroten, Alexey Shved and Mbah A Moute). And since most of the relevant players on this team are injured, he gets featured here by default. Since missing all of his true rookie season, Noel has impressed both in summer league and preseason with his impressive defensive awareness and an ability to finish around the hoop on offense, a la Andre Drummond. However, Drummond may cause him problems as Noel is listed at 228 pounds, nearly 50 pounds lighter than Drummond, who has a somewhat physical, bruising play style.
As much as I want to predict the Pistons to lose so that they'll win (that's how it's gone lately), I'm going to be honest here.
Pistons 112 - 85 Sixers
The Sixers make it to 85 on account of SVG playing end-of-the-benchers for the fourth quarter after leading by 35 after three.
SVG has said the team is preparing for the first two games without Monroe, hence why he has come off the bench recently. Some rumors say he might not play at all tonight, which I don't believe.
Pistons: Jennings, Singler, Butler, Smith, Drummond
Sixers: Wroten, Williams, Thompson, Davies, Noel
I really wanted to say we'll start Dinwiddie, but I think it's a bit too soon.
Pistons: Meeks (back), Caldwell-Pope (knee), Gray (heart), Thabeet/Bostic/Brown/Cook (waived)
Sixers: Carter-Williams (shoulder), Embiid (foot - personal reasons), Mbah A Moute (personal reasons)
Can a strong enough showing from Dinwiddie, coupled with a potential delay in Caldwell-Pope's return, see the rookie possibly start in Denver, or will Van Gundy go with Singler/Martin?