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Pistons vs. Cavaliers preview: Who can stop us?

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The Pistons face a red-hot Cavaliers side who have won 16 of their last 18 games.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons are a good team right now, going 18-10 since a certain astronaut was sent away on his mission.  However, in their last 18 games, the Cleveland Cavaliers are 16-2, and since Dec. 22 they are 19-12.  Considering how awful they looked in January, they've rebounded in a big way, which makes you wonder if they followed SB Nation's advice and waived the Josh Smith in their life.

Game Vitals

Where: Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI

When: Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, 7:30PM EST

Watch: FSD

Exceptionally Detailed Analysis

Coming out of the All-Star break, there was an expectation that the Pistons would falter, given the strength of schedule and lack of roster continuity given the moves made at the trade deadline.  However, a solid victory over Chicago followed by a pounding of Washington have indicated that the new players have meshed well and not much has been lost in terms of chemistry.  Perhaps there were factors on our side, such as Derrick Rose's abysmal game vs. Spencer Dinwiddie, and Washington looking awful recently, dropping their last three, but they are still perennial playoff contenders and we are the new kids on the block.

After playing with a 10-man roster against Chicago, Reggie Jackson made his Pistons debut against the Wizards.  It didn't go well at the start.  His nerves were obvious, and he started the game a shocking 0-8.  However, one chunder and two free throws later, and he was good to go.  We can thank DeJuan Blair for committing a silly foul on Reggie to allow him to settle, as his free throws gave him the confidence, and he stated after that he just needed to see something go through the hoop.  He then hit a straightaway three to close the half before attacking the hoop viciously in the second half to shoot 6-9 and finish with a stat line of 17 points (7-18 FG), 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

Finally, it appears that Stan Van Gundy will have a full roster at his disposal (minus Brandon Jennings).  Despite being dressed and available to play, neither Tayshaun Prince nor Quincy Miller played Sunday.  Van Gundy said that Prince hadn't had the same assimilation as Reggie, and he wasn't going to use him as a mop-up guy, which he does only to young players, not veterans.  As for Miller, I'm unsure as to why he didn't "mop up", considering he was with the team the same amount of time as Jackson, but both players will likely see time Tuesday, with Prince possibly getting the start.

As I mentioned, the Cleveland Cavaliers are hot. 18-2 hot.  PSE hot, even.  Here's some comments I made in regards to Kyrie Irving, Cleveland golden boy, before the last matchup:

Kyrie Irving has suffered inefficiency and inconsistency, as he often takes 20 shots to score 20 points and, for the amount of talent around him, should really be averaging more than 5.2 assists per game. For reference, before his injury, Jennings was averaging 6.6 assists for the season, and he was passing it to Josh Smith for wide open threes for 28 games.

That didn't go down to well with Cavaliers fans on Twitter, and I got absolutely murdered for daring to question Kyrie.

Well, since that matchup, on January 27, Kyrie has averaged 24.3 points per game on shooting percentages of .483/.471/.875.  He has also averaged 5.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds, as well as only 2.6 turnovers.  In other words, I do not like the taste of crow.  Of course, these stats include his now famous double-nickel game against Portland where he made clutch shot after clutch shot (that was the day I made by CostCo debut myself for those who remember), and appears to have figured it out.  It's been impressive how he's maintained his assist and rebound numbers while bumping up his scoring.  Let's hope he has an abhorrent game tonight.

Kevin Love and LeBron James have also put together a good run lately.  Kevin Love looks more engaged now than earlier in the year, and the Cavs appear to be making a conscious effort to include him more in the offense.  He looks less pouty, has been seen celebrating, and appears unhampered by his back troubles. LeBron is still LeBron, so this needs no discussion.

One other player I did want to touch on was J.R. Smith.  He had this steadfast reputation as an inefficient, no defense chucker while he was in New York, as a lot of his (and their) offense was isolation long twos.  Recently, Bballbreakdown has released a video on the change of J.R. Smith, and how he has cut down on his isos and become a very reliable catch-and-shoot presence, which has led to some actual efficiency.  He's averaged 13 points per game on 42-percent shooting in Cleveland, and this is tracking upwards lately.  He may have actually transformed his image from laughing stock with the Knicks to potential contender contributor with the Cavaliers.

Players To Watch

Pistons: Reggie Jackson

He made a mixed debut Sunday, but I think most can agree that he showed flashes of his potential and what he can do.  He got to the basket at will against the Wizards and a very good defender in John Form A F**king Wall.  He obviously won't be as nervous or jittery this time out, so the forecast is small chance of vomit with an increasing likelihood of buckets.

Cavaliers: Kevin Love

I feel like I haven't talked about LeBron a lot (if at all for that matter), but Kevin Love has put together a sneaky good February.  As Fear The Sword's Trevor Magnotti points out, his actual numbers in terms of points and rebounds are unspectacular, as they have been all season, but his efficiency has risen, and the three most common defensive lineups which feature Love have a DRTG of fewer than 90 each.  Whether this can be sustained (something we Detroit fans should know all about this season) is a different question, but he appears to finally have found his niche in a superstar-studded team.

Last Time We Met

Jan. 27th 2015, Cavaliers won 103-95 (season series 1-1)

This was the game where Kyrie Irving began his ridiculous scoring spree, dropping 38 points in front of a very strong, 18,000 Palace crowd.  In a revenge game for the beatdown we exacted on them earlier in the season, LeBron also chipped in with 32 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists.  They were somewhat reliant on these two stars, but they have become much more balanced.  Detroit were led by 19 points and 9 assists from D.J. Augustin and 17 points and 12 rebounds from Greg Monroe.  Andre Drummond also had 12 points and 17 rebounds, whilst Anthony Tolliver added 16 in the loss.

Connections

-- Pistons F Caron Butler played with Cavs C Brendan Haywood for the Washington Wizards from 2005-10 and in 2010-11 for the Dallas Mavericks.

-- Butler also played with Cavs F Shawn Marion in Dallas in 2010-11 and Cavs G Mike Miller in Washington in 2009-10.

-- Pistons F Tayshaun Prince played with Miller in Memphis during the 2013-14 season.

-- Pistons assistant coach Brendan Malone served as an assistant coach for the Cavaliers in 2004-05 and finished the season as the interim head coach.

Score Prediction

Well, I've predicted bold wins the last two games, so why bother stopping now?  I should put money on this.

Pistons 105, Cavs 97

Lineup Prediction

Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Prince, Monroe, Drummond

Cavaliers: Irving, Smith, James, Love, Mozgov

Injured/In Doubt

Pistons: Jennings (Achilles)

Cavaliers: Varejao (Achilles)

Community Question

Over under on possessions wasted by Isolayshaun?