Four and a half games back in the playoff push and losers of five straight, the Pistons have a rare home game among their remaining games against a team ahead of them in the standings. I think this is what would fall under the category of a must win game.
Where: Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI
When: Sunday, March 8, 6 p.m. ET
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
The Pistons are sinking like a stone down the Eastern Conference standings. From being around the 9th seed at around the trade deadline, the team has fallen off and now sit 12th, 4.5 games back from the 8th seeded Heat. The Indiana Pacers, who have surged into 7th, Charlotte Hornets, Jonas Jerebko-led Celtics and Brooklyn Nets have all maintained their current pace and sit comfortably above the Pistons. The Nets have actually fallen off lately, and lost their last matchup against the Suns after leading by 15 in the fourth quarter. The Pacers have been the biggest movers, and as mentioned, now sit 7th. Miami have played better than expected after the loss of Chris Bosh, while the new additions of Mo Williams and Jonas Jerebko have aided the Hornets and Celtics, respectively. Look away if you're a heartbroken Jonas fan, but the Swede has averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds per 36 minutes with his new team over seven games. Meanwhile, Tayshaun Prince has averaged 9 points and 5.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. Interestingly enough, those are pretty close to Jonas' raw averages since the trade. Reggie Jackson is actually putting up impressive per 36 numbers of 17.4 points, 8 assists and 5.3 rebounds, but his efficiency has struggled, shooting 37% from the field and 24% from behind the arc.
The Pistons, since the trade deadline, have been burned from behind the arc by shooting big men, such as Kevin Love, Andrea Bargnani and Josh Smith (4-4 from the FT line is impressive for him). Luckily, Charlotte are one of the worst shooting teams in the league, and one of the worst offensive teams as well. They only average 95.1 points a game (27th), and only shoot the ball at a 31% clip (29th) from beyond the arc. However, their stingy defense has kept them in a lot of games this season, as they only allow 96.7 points per game while holding opponents to 44% from the field and 35% from three. Their perimeter defense isn't as good actually, as the Pistons allow the same deep ball percentage, but I'm guessing that the absence of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist contributed to a slip in outside defense.
The Hornets are on a four-game winning streak, but their NBA.com game notes have recorded their current streak as one loss in a row. Omen, perhaps? Maybe they know something we don't? (That's actually their streak against us -- still a good sign, right?)
The Pistons were absolutely annihilated last game in Houston, despite only actually finishing 10 points behind. Another MVP candidate in James Harden ripped the defense to shreds on his way to a leisurely triple-double (38 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists). Reggie Jackson and Greg Monroe led the team in scoring, with 17 and 19, respectively, while Andre Drummond had a fool's gold 21 rebounds. What the biggest problem was for the Pistons was, surprise surprise, shooting efficiency. They hoisted 102 field goal attempts and only connected on 37 of them, good for a 36.6 percent conversion rate. With 7:28 remaining in the third it was 60-58 in favor of Houston, but pretty much at the same point in the fourth (6:58 left), the lead was 95-71. The Pistons could not score, and could not stop their opposition from scoring. Bad combination.
TRIVIA TIME!!!! Who on the Hornets roster was drafted in the same draft as Austin Daye and what connection do they have? Answer as always after the community question.
Playoffs Watch (March 7)
Miami def. Sacramento 114-109
Indiana def. New York 92-86
Philadelphia def. Atlanta 92-84 (LOL)
Players To Watch
Pistons: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
After a hot February KCP has hit a bit of a bump in March. As I reviewed here, KCP is far better in the catch and shoot than off the dribble, but too many of his shots still come in the weaker variety. He'll need to work on his consistency in order to provide the floor spacing that Detroit so desperately needs.
Hornets: Lance Stephenson
Charlotte's big FA acquisition has flopped big time this season. Free from the confines of Indiana, Stephenson was supposed to take the next step and turn into a legitimate star and form a backcourt to rival any with Kemba Walker. Well, with Walker out injured and Stephenson relegated to the bench, it's hardly happened. The bright side for Charlotte is that Stephenson's contract is very tradeable.
Last Time We Met
Feb. 10, 2015, Detroit won 106-78 (season series 1-0 DET)
Back when the times were good and we weren't "stuck" in the RJE, the Pistons demolished the Hornets by 28 points just before the All-Star break. Greg Monroe went Moose Mode and finished with 23 and 12 boards, while D.J. Augustin and Jodie Meeks each had 18. Tolliver added 16 and Drummond 14, whilst Gerald Henderson led Charlotte with 17.
-- Pistons forward Cartier Martin played for Charlotte in 2009.
-- Pistons forward Anthony Tolliver played for Charlotte during the 2013-14 season.
-- Pistons assistant coach Malik Allen played for Charlotte in 2005.
-- Pistons forward Caron Butler played with Hornets guard Mo Williams for the L.A. Clippers during the 2011-12 season.
-- Hornets forward Jason Maxiell was drafted by the Pistons with the 26th overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft and played for Detroit from 2005-13.
-- Pistons guard John Lucas III played with Hornets forward Marvin Williams for the Utah Jazz during the 2013-14 season.
-- Hornets guard Gerald Henderson is the son of former Piston guard Gerald Henderson who played for the Pistons from 1989-92.
-- Hornets head coach Steve Clifford was an assistant coach under Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic from 2007-12.
-- Pistons assistant coach Bob Beyer was an assistant coach with Charlotte during the 2013-14 season
Well last time I predicted a loss, and we lost. I predicted a win, and we lost before that. So I'm pulling out the most advanced stages of Ultimate Reverse Quagology (available on Amazon) here.
Pistons 97, Hornets 97 (book it)
Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Prince, Monroe, Drummond
Hornets: Mo Williams, Henderson, Kidd-Gilchrist, Zeller, Jefferson
Pistons: Jennings (Achilles)
Hornets: Walker (Knee - has missed last 18 games)
Should Butler start at SF? Are you happy with Prince for now? Maybe Shawne Williams or Quincy Miller?
TRIVIA ANSWER: Gerald Henderson was drafted 12th overall, and Austin Daye was 15th. They are connected in that the 2009 draft was the first time three sons of former NBA players were selected in the top 15 (Stephen and Dell Curry as well). Of further interest, Gerald Henderson's father, Gerald Henderson Sr., played for the Pistons from 1989-92.