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Pistons vs Pacers preview: A New Era Begins

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Traditional rivals clash in a Boxing Day bout.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Smith was waived...That is all.

Game Vitals

Where: Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI

When: 7:30PM EST, Friday, Dec. 26

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Finger-Shaking, Earth-Shattering, Community-Crushing Analysis

We should play better now that Voldemort is gone.

Serious Analysis (if you've made it this far)

Ignoring the obvious fact that only the decrepit Knicks and tanking Sixers have a worse record than the Pistons, there is actually a reason for optimism.  Sure, 5-23 is not good, no matter how you spin it, but after the waiving of arguably the biggest albatross in the NBA in Josh Smith (not sure if you heard about that, DBB didn't cover it that comprehensively), there is now a focus on the youth of the team.  Sure, the team traded one of said youth in Tony Mitchell for the considerably older Anthony Tolliver, but all this means that certain animals of the antlered variety will be featured more prominently on offense.  Also, Jonas Jerebko will get more minutes, presuming Anthony Tolliver is an infrequent rotation player, so there is only up from here.

The Pistons come into this matchup on the back of a four-game losing streak, albeit against quality opponents including Toronto, Dallas and the Clippers.  The Pistons' struggling defense really collapsed in this streak, giving up 112.5 points a game.  Van Gundy has said recently that the defense has taken a back seat in past weeks while the offense has been implemented, as the defense is actually around average in the NBA, while the offense is languishing at the depths of the league.  However, with Smith gone, that leaves around 14 shots a game to be spread out over the rest of the team, which should raise the Pistons' league-worst efficiency.  Players like Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should get the bulk of those shots, with some going also to Jonas Jerebko.  Also expect Brandon Jennings to take on a more aggressive role on the offense, and he will also need to start living up to the status of highest-paid player on the team, something he accused Smith of failing to do.

The Pistons last game was a 110-105 defeat at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets, not an elite team by any stretch.  However, instead of noted Piston killer Joe Johnson inflicting the most damage, Mason Plumlee showed up his Team USA rival Andre Drummond with a 21 point and 12 rebound outing.  For what it's worth, Drummond had 18 and 20 himself.  Brandon Jennings broke a funk with 22 points and 8 assists.  Greg Monroe had 16 in his final game as 6th man, while Josh Smith scored 13 in his final bow as a Piston.

Indiana is on a two-game winning streak after triumphs against New Orleans and at Minnesota.  In the 96-84 victory over NOLA, George Hill returned from injuries to post his first action of the season, leading the team with 15 points, with Roy Hibbert adding 14 and 7 blocks.  Solomon Hill and David West each added 13 while C.J. Miles supplemented with 11.  The Pacers are struggling this season, understandably so with their spate of injuries.  I still have not watched footage of the Paul George injury, seeing Kevin Ware was enough.  Add to that the lengthy absences of George Hill and David West, and you have a 10-19 team forced to use a hardship exception to sign A.J. Price (now at Cleveland), and scoring the second fewest points per game (Pistons are 25th) with the second worst field goal percentage (we're last).  However, they are a good rebounding team, averaging 45.4 a game, good for 3rd in the league, while Detroit, famed for its interior presence last season, is 18th with 42 a game, with a lot of those being offensive.

Players To Watch

Pistons: Brandon Jennings/Greg Monroe

With Smith gone, the offense will largely run through these two.  Greg Monroe should improve on his 29 minutes a game , with Stan Van Gundy also indicating that Monroe will be fed in the post, meaning his usage rate should rise from an already admittedly high 24%.  However, because he was playing with the bench, he was already getting a lot of touches, so I've really just backed myself into a corner here.

Brandon Jennings has not been the same since suffering a sprained thumb whilst guarding Jeff Teague in Atlanta.  His percentages and shot attempts have dropped, and he's looked timid on offense, usually scoring single digits in not a lot of minutes.  However, he showed signs with a 22 point outing last time out in Brooklyn, and given the longer than usual break over the holiday season, should be feeling better coming into this outing.  Expect $WAG.

Pacers: Rodney Stuckey

Just because. Hey!

Last Time We Met

2 April, 2014.  The Pacers took out the contest 101-94, to condemn the Pistons to a 27-48 record, from which they would go 2-5 over the last 7 games.  Josh Smith led the team with 24, while Monroe added 17 and 16, Drummond with 13 and 14, Rodney Stuckey with 16 and Brandon Jennings with 12 and 9 assists.  Paul George had a near triple double with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists.

Connections (NEW SEGMENT ALERT 1!1!1!1!)

- D.J. Augustin played for the Pacers during the 2012-13 season

- Pistons assistant Brendan Malone was Pacers assistant from 2000-03

- Pistons assistant Tim Hardaway played for the Pacers for part of the 2002-03 season

- Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey was drafted 15th overall in 2007 by Detroit and played from 2007-14, averaging 13.4 points, 3.9 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 483 games

- Pistons guard Jodie Meeks and Pacers forward Lavoy Allen played together for the 76ers during the 2011-12 season

- Pistons forward Caron Butler and Pacers center Ian Mahinmi won a championship together in Dallas during the 2010-11 season

Lineup Prediction

Pistons: Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Singler, Monroe (feels so good to type this), Drummond (yasss!!)

Pacers: C.J. Watson, Stuckey, Solomon Hill, West, Hibbert

Score Prediction

Major events usually precede wins, so I'm saying that the Josh Smith release plus the Tolliver for Mitchell trade equals a Piston victory, albeit with the traditional 4QC.

Pistons 97, Pacers 92

Injured/In-Doubt

Pistons: None

Pacers: George (fractured everything), Mahinmi (torn plantar fascia)

Community Question

Is Anthony Tolliver part of a bigger move or is he here to stay for the rest of the season?