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Pistons vs. Kings preview: Battle of big men Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins

After fading fast in the fourth quarter against the unbeaten Warriors, the Pistons face a Sacramento team that has only won once.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings are coming off Monday-night losses to Western Conference powerhouses, but that's where the similarities cease, at least for this season. For the first time in seven years, the Pistons will be sporting a winning record when they take the court at Sleep Train Arena. In fact, they hold the same record now (5-2) that they reached after beating the Kings 100-92 on November 11, 2008. Will history repeat itself tonight, or will a letdown from losing to the reigning champions cause Detroit to bring a subpar effort?

Game Vitals

Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
When: Wednesday, November 11, 2015, 10 PM EST
Watch: FSD

Exceptionally Detailed Analysis

For the last six years the main thing the Pistons and Kings have competed for is a spot in the NBA Draft lottery. During that span, the Pistons have won 16 more games than the Kings and have never once enjoyed a higher pick. Each franchise has held onto just three of those lotto picks, and is counting on those "keepers" to lead them to the playoffs. Detroit holds a 12-2 edge in the series since 2008-09, having won the last five meetings. While Detroit's playoff drought since 2009 seems like a lifetime, the Kings have endured 10 consecutive years of playoff futility. And with a 1-7 record to open 2015-16, their chances of ending their drought are not looking good.

Nevertheless, Sacramento can lay some of the blame for its stumbling start on DeMarcus Cousins missing four games due to a strained Achilles tendon. He returned to action against the Spurs, scoring 21 points (shooting 5-of-20 from the floor, but 11-12 from the line) and grabbing 12 rebounds. The Kings trailed by only three points entering the final quarter, but San Antonio pulled away for a 106-88 victory.

Sacramento made several significant changes to its roster after last year’s 29-53 finish. Rajon Rondo was signed to run the point, and former Spur Marco Belinelli was brought in to add shooting (.375 on threes). The frontline was bolstered by adding rookie Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos, who was Marc Gasol’s backup in Memphis. And Caron Butler, who toiled admirably for last year’s Pistons, is also on the bench.

As is typical of a George Karl-coached team, the Kings have picked up their pace (currently third in the NBA), but their offensive rating is 20th and their defense is 27th. Their sole victory was a 132-114 dousing of the Lakers, which was followed by six straight losses. Injuries and experimentation have led to 10 players starting at least one game, with only Rondo and Rudy Gay starting every night. Rondo is averaging 7.8 assists per outing, but his True Shooting Percentage is .435. Gay is not much better at .450, and Ben McLemore, who was picked one spot ahead of Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2012, is at .457. He has only started half of Sacramento’s games and is averaging only 17.8 minutes a night.

The Pistons will be led by Andre Drummond (19.4 ppg and 19.6 rpg), Reggie Jackson (22.7 ppg and 5.6 apg) and a ninth-rated defense. Marcus Morris (16.7 ppg) and Caldwell-Pope (14.9 ppg, .545 TS%) have played major supporting roles. Rookie wing Stanley Johnson made his biggest offensive contribution yet against Golden State, scoring 20 points.

Lineup Projection

Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Ersan Ilyasova, Andre Drummond
Kings: Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein, DeMarcus Cousins

Injured/In Doubt

Pistons: Brandon Jennings (Achilles), Jodie Meeks (foot)
Kings: Darren Collison (hamstring), Seth Curry (ankle)

Key Matchup

Andre Drummond vs. DeMarcus Cousins

The Kings have started Cauley-Stein alongside Cousins, so it’s possible the two star big men will not always be matched up against each other. Yet it’s difficult to imagine either team winning without a strong performance from its key man in the middle. Cousins has been firing up three-pointers with some frequency, but has shot 0-9 after making 4-5 in an opening contest against the Clippers. Drummond’s game flourishes around the basket, and he’ll be looking to bring another dominant 20-20 effort. Avoiding foul trouble will be crucial, because Cousins averages over 10 trips to the line per game.

Last Time We Met

January 4, 2015 at The Palace, Pistons won 114-95

Brandon Jennings exploded for 35 points, and Cousins was held to 18 on 17 shots, as Detroit won its fifth game in a row after waiving "You Know Who."

Score Prediction

Pistons 110, Kings 98

Community Question

Who scores more points, Cousins or Drummond?