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Pistons vs. Pacers: Battle of challengers

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Already the third meeting between Central foes as the Pistons look to make upward progress.

The Pistons snapped their 3 game skid last time out with a comfortable 25-point victory over Minnesota at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and will now make the short flight southwest to Indianapolis to battle the Pacers, losers of their last 2 and sitting half a game above the Pistons in the standings.

Game Vitals

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

When: Saturday, 2 January 2016, 7PM EST

Watch: FSD

Exceptionally Detailed Analysis

Before I begin analysis, I must confess some disappointment here. For four long months I was stationed in Indianapolis attending Butler University on exchange. The first thing I did when I found out where I was going was check the NBA schedule to see when the Pistons were going to be in town. When? None (not including the lousy preseason game which I did go to, and snapped a picture of Rick Mahorn playing Candy Crush while on live radio). This is annoying on a personal level, because I was about a week off seeing them live in Indy (although I did go to the game in Brooklyn, also an absolute nightmare, so maybe I should avoid the building from now on).

Anyway, the Pistons have been a little bit frustrating as of late, evidenced by two contrasting performances against New York and Minnesota. Against New York, nothing was working, Andre Drummond looked disinterested and we collapsed by double digits. Then, two days later, we put on a shooting clinic after a slow start and annihilate a young Minnesota team by 25 points, with Drummond monstering the Wolf cubs with 23 and 18.

While watching the Wolves game, I noticed an interesting bit of commentary from the Wolves' announcers which I agreed with. Most analysts have made the point that the team lives and dies with Reggie Jackson, and play well when he does, and vice versa, which is largely correct. However, the Wolves' commentators also made the point that the team's fate largely depends on the success of its three point shooting in any given game. Of course, they said this after any hope of them winning had been scorched by Anthony Tolliverse, so I had a look at some numbers.

This season, the Pistons are 9-2 when they hit at least 10 threes, with their only losses coming against the Knicks in the aforementioned horror show, and Charlotte on December 7th. The Pistons are also 12-1 when they hit at least 35% of their threes, with the one loss being the Knicks game again. Conversely, the Pistons are only 4-16 when they shoot under 35% from downtown, and 2-6 when they hit 6 or fewer threes. Basically, hit threes, and we'll win (usually).

Indiana is right where most people thought they'd be at the start of the season. At 18-14, they're sitting nicely at 7th in the East, and Paul George is second among Eastern Conference frontcourt players in All-Star voting behind only Lebron James, with averages of 24 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4 assists. There is a glaring weakness at the center position, however, with Lavoy Allen the starter and Jordan Hill the backup. Myles Turner did return from a fractured thumb 2 games ago, and is back up around his usual 20 minutes a game.

Last Time We Met

After being handed our first loss of the season by Indiana, we exacted revenge with a 22-point triumph, 118-96 on December 12th. Reggie Jackson had an average 21 points and 9 assists, while Ilyasova contributed 20, with Marcus Morris adding 16 and KCP 18. George Hill led the Pacers in scoring, but only managed 14 points as star Paul George was held largely in check.

Players to Watch

Pistons: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Is he good? Can he shoot? Is his defense overrated? KCP continues to be a divisive player amongst Pistons fans, and he had himself a relatively good game against Minnesota with 22 points on 7-17 shooting, including a ridiculous stretch in the third quarter. In this matchup, he'll be asked to guard Monta Ellis, a known scorer, giving him a chance to show off his defense once again. Also, Ellis is a notoriously poor defender himself, so KCP has a chance for a lot of open shots, as he usually does. It's just up to him to hit them.

Pacers: George Hill

I could go the obvious route and say Paul George, but George Hill has proven himself instrumental to Indiana's success this season. His averages are nothing special, 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, but he is the perfect point guard for a Paul George type player. He isn't a ball-dominant type like Reggie Jackson, he defends well and is an excellent shooter, hitting over 40% of his triples. He'll never be an All-Star, but he'll have a job for a long time, and all it cost the Pacers was Kawhi Leonard.

Konnectionz

Heyyy, it's back, boys, girls and octopi.

-- Pistons asst. coach Brendan Malone was an asst. coach for Indiana from 2000-03

-- Pistons asst. coach Tim Hardaway played for Indiana for part of the 2002-03 season

-- Pacers G Rodney Stuckey was drafted by Detroit 15th overall in 2007, and played for the Pistons from 2007-14

-- Pistons G Jodie Meeks and Pacers C Lavoy Allen played together for Philadelphia in 2011-12

-- Pacers F Chase Budinger was drafted by Detroit 44th overall in 2009 before being traded on draft night

-- Budinger, alond with Pacers C Jordan Hill and Pistons F Marcus Morris played for Houston in 2011-12

-- Pistons G Steve Blake played with Pacers C Jordan Hill for the LA Lakers from 2012-14

-- Pistons G Brandon Jennings and F Ersan Ilyasova, along with Pacers G Monta Ellis, played for Milwaukee in 2012-13

-- Pacers F Glenn Robinson III played collegiately for Michigan from 2012-14

-- Pacers C Shayne Whittington was born in Paw Paw, MI, attended Lawrence HS in Lawrence, MI and played collegiately for Western Michigan from 2009-14

Score Prediction

After finding a groove against Minnesota, I think (hope) Indiana's loss streak will stretch to three.

Pistons 107 - 98 Pacers

Lineup Prediction

Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Ilyasova, Drummond

Pacers: G. Hill, Ellis, Miles, George, Allen

Injured/In Doubt

Pistons: Meeks (foot)

Pacers: Jordan Hill (dental - questionable), Ian Mahinmi (knee - questionable)

Community Question

Does KCP break 50% this game?