The Pistons are back in a slump. The sky is blue. Grass is green. Stan Van Gundy has a killer 'stache. These are all things you already know. These are things that are a part of the natural order of... things.
Losing three games in a row happens to lots of teams, even good ones. But the progression, or more accurately, regression in those three losses is troubling. Andre Drummond's defensive effort and intensity appear to be wavering. Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are showing themselves still at times prone to bouts of cripplingly inefficient shooting. Those are the three pieces the Pistons roster is built around. I'm sure there's a cool chess metaphor about moving pieces that I'm too tired to think, but in a nutshell, those three guys have to learn to bring at least a B+ overall effort every night if they're going to be key cogs on a contending team.
Squaring off against Detroit on New Year's Eve are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who come into the game on their own four game losing streak After starting the season looking extremely pesky, the Timberwolves have cooled off and now look a good deal less dangerous then they did earlier in the season. Though with the way the Pistons have been playing, any opponent looks like a challenge.
Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills
When: 6:00pm EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit Plus
Well, to be honest, not much has changed with the Timberwolves since the last time they played the Pistons (HERE's the preview from that game).
Minnesota is a highly unusual team in the modern NBA. They're dead last in the league in 3 point attempts, averaging ten less per game than Detroit. And when they do shoot 3's, those shots don't go in (currently 27th in the league in 3pt% at .32%). Their offense is being propped up by getting to the line a lot, and knocking down those FT's (to the tune of 80% as a team).
The Timberwolves vets are beginning to really drag the team down. Professional foul-drawer Kevin Martin is now one dimensional to a degree rarely seen in players getting major minutes. Tayshaun Prince should just be coaching the team rather than playing for it. He must be one of the lowest usage wing players in the NBA (7.5%), and even at that level he can only muster a TS% of .469.
Minnesota has designed their roster for Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach Levine to take the reins offensively, take their lumps, and grow as a unit. Towns has clearly been up to the task, while the Levine and Wiggins have been up and down, excusable for a pair of 20 year olds.
On paper, the Timberwolves are exactly the type of team the Pistons should eat up. If Detroit clogs the paint and avoids turning the game into a foul shooting contest it's hard to see how Minnesota scores enough points to win the game. We'll see how it goes down.
Key Match-Up To Watch
Andre Drummond vs. Karl-Anthony Towns
The rematch. Even with Dre's inconsistency, he's still on track to be the most physically imposing center in the league for the foreseeable future. KAT's effectiveness comes from more the skill/coordination side of the basketball tree. In their first game against each other both were highly productive, though Dre won the matchup by a (back) hair and his team took home the W. It's a fun clash of styles and hopefully a duel that we can all enjoy for many years to come.
Communal Questions (one OT)
Shabazz. Do we like him as a possible buy low candidate?
So... how's about a critical college football game at 8pm on New Year's Eve?