The Pistons defense is crawling closer to respectability with each passing game, but the offense remains a major work in progress. The team is still missing some possible contributors, but it lacks a go-to shooter that can help open things up for the rest of the team. That's what the Jazz have in Gordon Hayward, who put the Jazz on his back and eked out a 97-96 win at the Palace on Sunday.
Detroit is going to need to figure something out and figure it out fast as they begin a brutal four-game road trip playing four teams who think they can legitimately reach the finals in their respective conferences in the Chicago Bulls (tonight), Washington Wizards, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies.
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
When: 8 p.m. EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
The Chicago Bulls (5-2) are a formidable foe, but they are not at full strength and don't look dominating in ways of Bulls' teams past. First, the injury report -- there is no word on whether Derrick Rose will play tonight. He missed the Bulls' 106-101 loss to the Celtics with a pair of sprained ankles and is listed as questionable tonight.
Second, this Chicago team is not the defensive juggernaut that we're used to seeing from a Tom Thibodeau-coached club. At least not yet. Yes, Chicago is first in the Central division, but they've played a particularly easy schedule. They've beaten the Knicks, Wolves, Magic, Bucks and barely survived the 76ers while getting stomped by the Celtics for most the game before staging a furious rally that came up just short.
The Bulls are just 19th in defensive efficiency this year and even more shocking are the league's worst defensive rebounding team. Chicago has been outrebounded in six straight games and give up 15.3 second-chance points per game -- only five teams in the NBA give up more.
That's good news for the Pistons, who sport the league's worst-shooting offense. Detroit is going to need second-chance opportunities and have the big bodies to dominate the boards in Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.
But the bigger challenge will be for Detroit to stop Chicago's sneaky good offense. Chicago is hitting better than 40 percent from deep and 50 percent from inside the arc and gets to the line a ton. It also has big men that can hit the jumper from 16 feet and out, which seems to be the exact kind of players that give Monroe and Smith fits.
Players to Watch
Pistons: Andre Drummond
Detroit continues to force feed Drummond on the offensive end, and Andre is suffering because of it. Perhaps continued reps and development will be a good thing in the long run but for now it's just sort of ugly -- especially since nobody else on the team seems capable of consistently making shots. That being said, Drummond broke out on the boards against the Jazz -- scooping up 18 caroms including seven on the offensive end.
Detroit can't count on lighting it up from the perimeter, and still has no reliable play makers so it will have to rely on taking advantage of the offensive glass, and nobody does it better than Drummond. It'd be nice if he took those boards and went right back up and dunked them with authority.
If the Pistons can get a 14-point, 14-rebound on greater than 60 percent shooting from Drummond they have a chance to leave the United Center with a victory.
Bulls: Aaron Brooks
I was tempted to go with the small forward combo of Mike Dunleavy and Doug McDermott here for two reasons: 1. Both players are capable of burning you from the perimeter and 2. Josh Smith starting small forward has a tendency to lose track of his man on the perimeter if that man is not the No. 1 scoring option.
It's a scary proposition.
But even scarier might be Aaron Brooks, who is this year's DJ Augustin, who was last year's Nate Robinson and is just the latest example of the magic Thibs works on point guards who have previously been left for dead. Brooks was a fringe bench player last year in Houston and Denver, but in a reserve role in Chicago he has been deadly.
Brooks is averaging 13 points per game in just over 22 minutes, and connecting on an ungodly 58 percent from deep while chipping in nearly five dimes per game. He's also breaking down defenses and getting into the restricted area at a rate he hasn't seen since 2009. It's amazing what having a floor full of competent shooters can do for a point guard.
Brooks (aka Augustin 2.0) will need to be guarded by Augustin 1.0, who is scuffling the past couple of games. Most of those struggles have come at the offensive end, and at least by my eye test DJ doesn't seem to get burned too badly by opposing point guards in Stan Van Gundy's conservative defensive system.
Last Time We Met
The Pistons last faced the Bulls at the tail end of the storied John Loyer era, falling 106-98. In that game, Drummond dominated in that game, going for 26 points and 26 rebounds. And the Pistons still lost! Last year was so effed ...
Detroit was burned by Joakim Noah, who nearly had a triple double with 12 rebounds, 10 assists and six points. But the majority of the offensive damage was done by the now-departed Carlos Boozer, who hit seven of his eight shots, and Augustin who scorched the Pistons for 24 points and got to the free-throw line 10 times.
You know what they say, if you can't beat em, sign one of their players for $3 million per year.
Because I don't want to entertain the prospect of this team coming home from it's road trip 2-8, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a victory even though Detroit is on the end of a back-to-back. No Piston played more than 33 minutes last night so fatigue might be limited. I'm going to predict no Derrick Rose and a 105-99 Detroit win behind monster rebounding and a nice stat-stuffing night from Drummond.
Pistons: Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Smith, Monroe Drummond
Chicago: Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah
Pistons: Jodie Meeks (back), Cartier Martin (foot), Luigi Datome (hamstring)
Bulls: Rose (ankles)