Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
When: Saturday, Feb. 28, 7:00PM EST
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
The Wizards are in a serious funk at the moment. They've lost their last six games, and none of them have really been close. Besides a two-point loss to Toronto, they've been downed by margins of 20 (Minnesota), seven (Golden State), 17 (Detroit, hey that's us!), 38 (Cleveland, this was embarrassing), and most recently, by eight to a theoretically abysmal Philadelphia side yesterday. In fairness, we aren't really qualified to dump on Philly considering we're losing our season series with them 2-1 (we have a chance to level that on 18 March), but Washington has fallen into a pretty alarming decline. Their record stands at 33-26, still good for 5th in the East, with Milwaukee the only realistic chance of catching them at half a game back at 32-26, but their form won't be pleasing to coach Randy Wittman.
A fair portion of the Wizards' dip in form can be attributed to the loss of Bradley Beal, who has a stress reaction in his lower leg, but also because Wittman appears to run a very outdated offense. John Wall is constantly forced to slow down his game while he waits for the likes of Marcin Gortat, Nene and the almost fossilized Paul Pierce to catch up. Plus they play Rasual "Older Than Sliced Bread" Butler serious minutes. Their championship window wasn't really that profound, but it's rapidly shutting with this ageing roster.
Detroit comes into this game with its own problems. After a respectable loss to the Cavaliers, where Kevin Love caught fire to the tune of eight threes, serious deficiencies were exposed in the consequent embarrassing double overtime loss to the New York Knicks. The Pistons could be considered a tad unfortunate, as Langston Galloway (yeah, that guy) hit an absolute rainmaker with six seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime. In period 1 of OT, Greg Monroe had a chance to put the Pistons ahead with under a minute left on an and-one opportunity but missed. New York took their chances, the Pistons did not.
The major talking point was the play of Reggie Jackson. While it's still early, and some of it could be familiarity issues, you cannot ignore a 5-24 shooting performance, especially considering the manner of shots. Either he had a secret meeting with Will Bynum during the week, or Josh Smith drove the Magic School Bus into Jackson's brain and controlled his every move. Double-clutch contested runners, foot-on-the-line pull up jumpers, high-arcing floaters, he had the whole shebang. He did go 5-5 from the free throw line, and had 5 assists (but 4 TO) and 5 rebounds, if we're serious about putting lipstick on this pig.
However, what was the major concern for me, and I'm a Jackson supporter, is how, in this game, he seemingly didn't know his limitations. I lost count how often I was yelling at my computer "THAT'S NOT YOUR F#@$ING SHOT" every time he pulled up for a midrange jumper or clanked a three. Whenever he did go inside, he was crowded out and pressed into mistakes. I hope that was just his one bad game out of his system, but I may have to start construction on a $WAG shrine if this proves to be more than a simple aberration.
Players To Watch
Pistons: Reggie Jackson
This game becomes doubly important for Jackson now. He already proved 'bout a week ago that he can outplay John Wall (in his Pistons debut, not counting the first half), but it will be interesting to see how he responds after such a horrific outing. My guess/hope is that Van Gundy pulled him aside, gave him some words of encouragement and support, and slapped him on the chops* for good measure.
*Chops is Australian slang for mouth
Wizards: Marcin Gortat
With John Wall reduced to a spectator's role in the last meeting between the two sides, Marcin Gortat stepped up big for the Wizards. He finished with 24 and 10 rebounds, and at one point I believe was 8-8 from the field, so it will be interesting to see how Drummond handles him this time around.
Last Time We Met
Feb. 22, 2015, Pistons won 106-89 (season series 1-1)
In his Pistons debut, Reggie Jackson lit up both the Palace floor with a sparkling 0-8 start, as well as the sidelines with a nerve-inducing upchuck. After that, he settled down and went 7-10 the rest of the way to finish with 17 points. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led all scorers with 26, Andre added 18 and 16 boards and Greg Monroe had double 15s. Marcin Gortat led the Wiz with 24 and 10 rebounds.
-- Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy coached Wizards center Marcin Gortat in Orlando from 2007-10.
-- Pistons guard Brandon Jennings and Wizards forward Drew Gooden played for the Milwaukee Bucks from 2010-13.
-- Pistons center Joel Anthony played part of the 2013-14 season with Wizards forward Kris Humphries for the Boston Celtics.
-- Pistons forward Caron Butler played for the Wizards from 2005-2010.
-- Butler and Wizards forward Rasual Butler played together for the Miami HEAT from 2002-04.
-- Pistons forward Anthony Tolliver played with Wizards forward Martell Webster for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2010-12.
-- Pistons center Andre Drummond and Wizards guard Bradley Beal played for the 2009 U16 and 2010 U17 USA National teams that won two gold medals.
-- Pistons forward Cartier Martin played for the Wizards in 2010-11 and 2012-13.
-- Wizards assistant coaches Don Zierden (2005-07), Pat Sullivan (2003-05, 2008-11) and Roy Rogers (2011-13) all served as assistant coaches in Detroit.
Well, after a depressing Friday night, let's restock the Kool-Aid cupboard. The Wiz are slumping, now is as good a time as any to play them.
Pistons 107, Wiz 98
Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Prince, Monroe, Drummond
Wizards: Wall, Temple, Porter Jr, Nene, Gortat
Pistons: Jennings (Achilles), Butler (dinosaurism)
Wizards: Beal (lower leg), Pierce (knee), Humphries (groin)
Now that we've all calmed down, was there an overreaction to Jackson's stinker yesterday, or is there a real chance this is a permanent issue?