If the Pistons have truly turned a corner and want to be firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff picture this is the type of opponent they must beat.
Where: Barclay's Center, Brooklyn, NY.
When: 6:00 p.m. EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
The Nets continue to build around Brook Lopez, and he's responded by continuing to be Brook Lopez. There will be a handsome number of points scored at roughly average to slightly below average efficiency. Other parts of the package include precious few rebounds and generally slow-footed and porous defense.
Joe Johnson has fallen off a cliff statistically (11.4 pts/36, on .43 TS%), and is still somehow averaging 34 minutes/game.
It's unclear if Bojan Bogdanovic has a single above average NBA level skill.
And last but not least, Andrea Bargnani might be actually the worst, most destructively unproductive player in the entire league (... and yes, now that I've typed this I am worried a reverse jinx has been activated and he'll probably torch Detroit).
Those four players are in the Nets top 8 rotation (Lopez and Johnson are 1 and 2 in minutes played and in the conversation for most overpaid players in the entire league), and they are dragging down an otherwise passable young team.
Who wins this matchup:
Jarrett Jack/Joe Johnson/Bojan Bogdanovic/Andrea Bargnani/Brook Lopez
Shane Larkin/Wayne Eillington/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/Thaddeus Young/Thomas Robinson...? WHO WINS IT, LIONEL HOLLINS???
To my mind, if Brooklyn ran the young group out there, but sub'd Jarrett Jack for Wayne Eillington, they'd have a squad that could be feisty.
Anyway, enough about Brooklyn and how much they annoy me, that's not what you're here for. You're here for a preview of a basketball contest to be played later today.
Even More Rigorous Analysis
The Nets are dead last in the league in three-point percentage and aren't particularly quick off the dribble as a team. If ever there was a time to sag off shooters and clog the paint this is it.
Detroit's defense has been good overall, but when it has struggled those struggles seem to have come against opponents that have a combination of an advantage in overall team speed and have shooters who can stretch the Pistons defense and bomb them from the perimeter. The Nets don't have much of either of those. The one worry spot is KCP has sometimes had trouble defensively against SG's with a substantial size/strength advantage, Joe Johnson has looked gassed so far this season, but he is the type of SG who can give KCP problems.
On the other end I would be shocked if the Pistons didn't try roughly a billiontrillion PnR's with Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, anything that forces Brook Lopez to cover ground on defense is usually going to be a win for the offense. Especially so because the Nets are on the second night of a back-to-back.
The big question this evening (and throughout the rest of the season, as has been much discussed) will be how much secondary offense can the Pistons generate off the Jackson/Drummond action. If KCP, Morris, Ilyasova, Johnson, Tolliver and co. are canning 3's (and the opportunities should be there - Brooklyn is 26th in team defensive rating), things should work out in the Pistons favor. If the game comes down to who can make more contested mid range jumpers, the odds are considerably more even.
Key Match-Up to Watch
Reggie Jackson vs. Jarrett Jack
For the Pistons to truly become a contending team Reggie Jackson has to make the leap from good to great. Right now he's shown flashes of great, but they've been accompanied by maddening inconsistency. Jackson has improved his 3 point stroke enough that it's no longer a weakness and can be a weapon (35 percent on the season), it's time to begin mastering the finer points of being a leader on an NBA playoff team.
Reggie's SHOTCHART still has too much mid-range stuff going on. For the Pick n' Roll with Andre to become the galactic Starkiller Base SVG has pinned the Pistons future championship hopes on, Reggie needs to be as credible a threat to fire away from deep as he is to drive to the hoop.
The match-up with Jack is a good place for Reggie to start. Jarrett Jack is a scrappy, wily veteran and still a good player. But with Jack as part of a defensive tandem with Brook Lopez, there is no reason Reggie shouldn't have tons of space to shoot or drive. The difference between the Pistons being a first round exit type team and a contender will ultimately come down to a lot of things, but Reggie learning to make the correct decision each and every time Andre stomps up to the top of the key to set a pick, is near the very top of the list.
Underrated/Overrated Thanksgiving dish?