Detroit Pistons (23-35)
Houston Rockets (39-19)
Game Tips at 8 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Detroit | Radio: 97.1 The Ticket
Since entering the league nearly 10 years ago Dwight Howard has firmly established himself as the No. 1 center in the NBA. Sure, Tyson Chandler has had great years mixed in with some injury-plagued ones and Joakim Noah is an underrated force, but nobody has effected both ends as consistently as Howard. He received the best center mantle from Shaquille O'Neal (who didn't much care for Howard) and the question now is, when does Howard bestow the best center crown on Detroit's Andre Drummond?
Howard and his Houston teammates trounced Drummond and Detroit in an earlier meeting between the two squads. The Rockets big man gave Detroit's emerging star a baptism by fire, going for a season-high 35 points and 19 rebounds in Houston's 114-97 victory. Drummond, meanwhile, had one of his patented horrible games -- game which usually coincide with foul trouble. Dre had just nine points, six rebounds and five fouls.
Houston as a whole, however, is more than just Howard. Over the past 12 games no other team is hotter save the Miami Heat (pun intended). Both have won 10 of 12 and both consistently ranks among the league leaders in key categories over that span. Houston ranks second in eFG% (55 percent), second in TS% (59 percent as a team!), first in Net Rating (difference between offensive and defensive efficiency), and first in rebounding percentage. About the only thing the Rockets have done poorly is turn the ball over (worst turnover ratio in NBA in past 12 games).
And, not to sound like a broken record, but Detroit struggles on the road, especially against the west and hasn't won a game on the road against the Rockets since 2005. so, yeah, the Pistons have their work cut out for them.
Keys to the Game
Drum-roe dominance: Drummond needs to be a beast on the glass and in transition for the Pistons to have a shot. And Greg Monroe needs to be able to go to work against the Rockets big frontline to make Howard and company expend a lot of effort on the defensive end.
Lola Detroit, Run!: As mentioned previously, the Rockets are the league's most turnover prone team in the past 12 games. Both these squad like to run up and down the floor and Detroit usually does best when the breaks come off at both ends. And it also doesn't hurt when playing a team that plays to one of Detroit's few strengths -- gambling for steals and trying to convert in transition. If Houston hasn't fixed its turnover problems it could lead to a lot of easy buckets for Detroit, but Detroit will have to force the action.
Beware of Jordan Hamilton: Remember that guy that Detroit Bad Boy's own Mike Payne kept agitating as a worthy trade target? A nice small forward to take a flier on the cheap to try and rebalance this whacked out roster somewhat? Well, Detroit didn't trade for him but Houston did (Morey!!!). And in two games in Houston the once little-used wing has scored 28 points including six of 11 3-point attempts.
Questions of the Game
Does Drummond rebound from his pitiful showing against the Rockets earlier in the year? What will his state line look like at the end of the night?