On any given night, anything can happen in the NBA. Late Sunday night, the Pistons proved just that in spectacular, electrifying, and I'm-out-of-adjectives fashion.
Less than 24 hours later, the Pistons will get the chance to prove it again.
On the heels of their historic NBA championship season, the Golden State Warriors continue to look, well, historic. And I mean that completely literally. For some context, remember those 1995-1996 Bulls that won seventy-two games? Their point differential (how many points the Bulls scored minus how many points their opponents scored per game) was 12.3. That means on average, the Bulls outscored their opponents by 12.3 points per game. Incredible, right?
The 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors' point differential was 10.1. Not too shabby and enough to win sixty-seven games and eventually the NBA championship.
This season, though, the Golden State Warriors are making real life basketball look like NBA 2k. Absurdly, their point differential is a staggering 19.
That is not a typo. In their seven games and seven victories, the Warriors are outscoring their opponents by nineteen points per game. There are not enough superlatives to describe just how incredible this is.
Equally is absurd is reigning MVP Stephen Curry's performance. Again, not enough superlatives and again, these are not typos: 34 points per game, 6 assists per game, 5 boards per game on 55%/48%/92% shooting. For those counting, that's a 73.3 true shooting percentage. This does not happen in real life, except, it's happening.
That every other player in the Warriors' rotation is basically producing what they did last season helps, too.
No question about it, beating the Warriors on their home floor is a daunting task.
The Warriors appear to be historically good, the game is in Golden State, and the Pistons spent every ounce of energy and emotion in a season-defining comeback against Portland less than 24 hours ago.
But, I'm not counting our guys out of it just yet.
Keys to the Game
Drummond's dominance: Even when healthy, the Warriors have no answer for Andre Drummond (does anyone?). Andrew Bogut is expected to play after missing several games with a concussion, and Bogut is a very solid player.
But Andre Drummond is averaging 20.3 points and 20.3 rebounds per game. And just shy of two steals and two blocks for good measure. If Steph Curry has one video game controller, then Andre Drummond is sitting opposite him on the couch with the other.
Yes, his post game isn't completely there yet. Yes, his free throw shooting is an issue. But sometimes, the end is more important than the means, and the end result is Andre Drummond dominating the paint the way Steph Curry is dominating the perimeter.
For the Pistons to win, Dre's dominance must continue.
Attack Steph Curry: If Curry has a flaw, it's one-on-one defense. Fortunately, the Pistons' Reggie Jackson has the kind of game built to exploit it. At his best, Reggie attacks the rim unrelentingly. Against Curry, Reggie has a strength advantage and the skill set to take advantage it.
Reggie's best defense against Curry may well be making Curry himself play defense for all twenty-four seconds of the shot clock.
Attack early. Attack often. Don't settle.
That remarkable fourth quarter against Portland obviously can't be replicated every night, but that relentless attacking style should be, and Reggie has to be about it against the Warriors.
Defend and finish the possession: The biggest surprise of this young season is the Pistons' defense. Per 100 possessions, the Pistons give up a stingy 94.6 points per game, good for sixth best in the NBA. Key to that unexpected brilliance has been defensive rebounding; the Pistons snag about 81% of all available defensive rebounds.
Or, put simply, the Pistons defend well, and they finish the defensive possession by securing defensive rebounds.
Here yet again, the Pistons will have their work cut out for them. In addition to having the most potent offense in the NBA, the Warriors are the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the league (by offensive rebounding percentage). Which, put simply, means that although they don't miss a lot, they excel on extending possessions when they do.
The Pistons have to finish every defensive possession to win.
Question of the Game
Are you still riding high from the win against Portland? I am. And it's glorious.