The Pistons open their season after a grueling training camp with a back-to-back on the road to Denver and Minnesota, two of the more notorious run-and-gun offenses in the league. While the new look defense stifled Denver's up-tempo game, our offense resembled a large structure used for storing waste which had been set alight.
Josh Smith, as much as I hate criticizing my team's players, had a very average game. He looked good from the FT line, and had a couple of blocks with his 25 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there, many of which were of the elongated minimum points variety. The team looks to bounce back against a Minnesota team which lost its first encounter in Memphis, 105-101.
I'd just like to say, this game is on my 19th birthday (October 31 here in Australia), and I'd love nothing more than a Pistons victory (or a PlayStation 4), so I'll leave a joyous video here to lighten the mood.
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minn.
When: Thursday 30 October, 8 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
The Pistons had a very disappointing opener on Wednesday against Denver. Clearly, Stan Van Gundy's altitude mind games didn't quite work as the team looked sluggish and stagnant on offense. One positive was the defense appeared far better organized, and the perimeter showed far more resistance, with our backcourt holding guards Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Randy Foye to quiet games — especially Lawson.
However, the much talked about turning point over on Denver Stiffs was the introduction of Alonzo Gee to nullify the impact D.J. Augustin was having off the bench. Brandon Jennings had a poor game by his recent standards, playing only 20 minutes and dishing two assists to go with three turnovers, but he's shooting 50 percent on the season! Greg Monroe was missed against Denver, as they were afforded too many offensive rebounding opportunities, especially by Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov.
On the bright side, Drummond served up a couple of posters, Mozgoving Mozgov twice in the space of a few minutes. Caldwell-Pope had a shocker, serving up a shooting display even Josh Smith would cringe at, going 3-19 from the field, many of which were forced jump shots against good defense, but we can (hopefully) attribute some of his lackluster performance to the fact that he's coming off an injury layoff.
The Wolves opened their season in the "Grindhouse" with a tough matchup in Memphis, going down by four, 105-101. Thaddeus Young was their offensive fulcrum, finishing with 26 points on 10-18 shooting. However, all other starters went 11-33 from the field, and Kevin Martin was inactive after twisting his ankle in practice on Tuesday. Andrew Wiggins scored six points in 18 minutes in his NBA debut, and the Timberwolves, despite losing one of the best pound-for-pound rebounders in the game in Kevin Love, heavily outrebounded the 5th-ranked Grizzlies from last season by 47-33. The Wolves bench also thrashed the Grizzlies bench, outscoring them 46-10.
However, they struggled to control the ball, coughing it up an astounding 23 times, Ricky Rubio alone with seven. This could be an issue for the Wolves, with the Pistons' much improved defense, although it has been noted by Van Gundy that his teams don't traditionally force turnovers in high volumes. In other news, Tayshaun Prince received a DNP-CD against Minnesota for Memphis. What a fall from grace.
Players to Watch
Pistons: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
KCP had possibly his worst game as a pro shooting-wise, going a dismal 3-19 from the field. He has a chance to bounce back against Minnesota, an average defensive team. However, their perennial no-defense nominee, Kevin Martin, is in doubt with an ankle injury, which would leave KCP guarded by either Zach LaVine or Corey Brewer. While Brewer is energetic and athletic, he has a tendency to gamble, and LaVine, being a rookie, doesn't quite have defensive instincts similar to his athletic prowess. It should be noted that LaVine didn't play in what was supposed to be his NBA debut, and Brewer started at the two in place of Martin. If Martin is out again, expect Caldwell-Pope to struggle offensively as Brewer is a capable defender, and Pope's athleticism and defensive instincts will be tested as Brewer is notorious for running out on fast breaks.
Wolves: Andrew Wiggins
The No. 1 pick in the draft had a quiet debut, scoring six points in 18 minutes. However, it should be noted, against Memphis, he was squaring off against the Grindfather himself, one of the league's best defenders in Tony Allen, who typically doesn't let more than 10 get scored on him. However, he has a favorable matchup both offensively and defensively against the Pistons, going against Kyle Singler, Caron Butler and maybe Gigi Datome depending on fatigue on back-to-back nights. He won't have to do much defensively, as Butler and Singler are both spot-up shooters, and offensively, Wiggins has more athleticism in his left toe than Singler and Butler combined (in their left toes obviously), and should cause havoc. His unreliable jump shot however may work against him here.
Last Time We Met
The last time these two teams met was March 7, 2014, in Minnesota, where the Wolves swept the season series 2-0 with a 114-101 victory. At this point in the season, the Pistons were 24-38 while Minnesota was 31-30. In this game, Monroe led the team with 20 points and 15 rebounds, but Kevin Love eclipsed him with a 28 & 14 game. It was Monroe's 26th double-double of the season, and it was complemented by 17-point games from Jennings and Will Bynum, and 13 from Josh Smith.
While our defense has improved, our offense was, well, offensive, to put it mildly. Minnesota showed promise in their opening night defeat, and even though both teams are on the tail-end of a back-to-back, I'll lean Minny thanks to our exertions in the Mile High City.
Pistons: Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Singler, Smith, Drummond
Wolves: Rubio, Brewer, Wiggins, Young, Pekovic
Pistons: Meeks (back), Martin (mild plantar fascia strain, right foot - questionable), Monroe (suspension)
Wolves: Martin (ankle), Turiaf (sore hip)
Did the Pistons show enough in Denver to possibly carry it over and pull out a win here tonight?