The Pistons are so, so close to the Playoffs. With twenty-three wins to thirty-four losses, they find themselves tied with Brooklyn, Charlotte, and Indiana in the win column, two games back of Brooklyn and Charlotte in the loss column, and dead even with Indiana overall.
From now to the end of the season, every minute is critical.
By contrast, the New York Knicks are packing it in. The only player left on the Knicks' roster that should give the Pistons any real match up concerns, Carmelo Anthony, is shutting it down for the season. The Knicks are packing it in and hoping for favorable lottery ball bounces.
Stunningly, the Knicks are actually worse than the Phildelphia 76ers who aren't even trying win games this season. Truly remarkable, that.
As a concrete example of just how bad it is, on Friday against the Pistons, the Knicks will be playing only two players that average double digit points on the season: Langston Galloway (11.8) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (11.1).
I will be the first to argue that points per game don't tell the whole story about any player or team, but yikes, even the best defensive and rebounding teams in the game need to put the ball in the basket - and New York doesn't resemble anything like the best of anything anywhere.
On paper, this should be as easy a win as one can hope for in the NBA, at a time when the Pistons need every win they can get.
Keys to the Game
Show up: Tongue only half in cheek here. This would be an easy game to overlook while on cruise control. I'm poking a bit of fun at how bad New York is here, but no one within the Pistons organization ought to be.
Exploit mismatches: Reggie Jackson should be able to run circles around Jose Calderon. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond should have a decided advantage in the paint. Frankly, the Pistons are better than the Knicks at every position, except maybe backup point guard, so there should be mismatches in our favor all over the place.
Figure out what works: I didn't love what Kevin Love and the Cavaliers did to the Pistons in the second half on Tuesday. Yes, the Cavs were hot, but literally nothing worked on offense after halftime - by which time the Pistons seemingly explosive offense had already scored sixty-two points. The Pistons have had a few days of practice to tinker with their new additions in practice, and it's time to execute what works during gametime.
Question of the Game
If you swapped Carmelo Anthony with any other legitimate NBA superstar - LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, take your pick - how many wins would this Knicks roster have right now?
Yes, this is my cheeky way of implying that Carmelo Anthony is the most overrated player of his generation, and as bad as Darko was, it's a good thing the Pistons didn't end up with Melo.