Where: Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI
When: Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, 7:30PM EST
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
Despite the Cavaliers internal strife as of late, they still boast a formidable 32-12 record and lead the Eastern Conference, which makes it all the more surprising that they decided to part ways with the man who led them to the NBA finals last season, David Blatt, and hand the reins over to Tyronn Lue, whose first coaching job involves a championship or bust mandate with stars like LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
The Pistons come into the game after a very unconvincing 110-97 win against the Philadelphia 76ers. For much of the game the Pistons trailed, and were even behind double digits at times, before a furious fourth quarter propelled the team to a needed victory, especially with the tough back-to-back this weekend against Cleveland and Toronto.
After being criticized for a multitude of reasons recently, both Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond had statistically dominant games against the 76ers. Jackson followed up his 29-point showing in Utah with 27 points against Philly, while Drummond, who has had consistency and focus problems, had himself a night with 25 points and 18 rebounds.
The bench has also really improved out of sight in the last month or so. Part of this has been the return of Brandon Jennings, who has quickened the pace to allow easier opportunities on the break, but the improved play of Stanley Johnson and Aron Baynes cannot be discounted. Stanley came up big with 18 points against Philadelphia, while Baynes added 12 points.
Baynes in particular has made outstanding leaps in January, with averages this month of 8.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, while shooting 60% from the field and 83% from the free throw line. He has an offensive rating of 128 and a defensive rating of 103. He's producing all that in only 16.4 minutes a game, as he has improved markedly from the flaming lobster claws start of the season.
The Cavs come into this game after mauling the Phoenix Suns 115-93 on Wednesday. For them, LeBron James had 21 points and 9 assists while Kevin Love also had 21 points and 11 rebounds. Since returning from his injury sustained in the NBA finals, Kyrie Irving has worked his way back to something resembling the pre-injury Irving. although his minutes are still a little down, and he has only passed 30 minutes once in his last five contests, a factor of both the Cavs blowing teams out and his endurance and conditioning still being underdone.
The Cavs have managed to stay consistent at PG, though, due to a steady backup rotation of Matthew Dellavedova and Mo Williams. Dellavedova has averaged 8.3 points and 4.9 assists in just under 27 minutes a game, while ranking 6th in the NBA in assist to turnover ratio at 3.3, and 11th in the league in distance shooting at 43%. Williams is averaging 9.9 points and 3.1 asissts in 21.7 minutes per game, although he has only appeared in 29 games this season, missing time with injury and, recently, seeing a reduced role in the rotation as Blatt/Lue have shortened the bench to 3 main contributors (Mozgov, Dellavedova and Shumpert) with situational minutes for veterans like Williams and Richard Jefferson.
Last Time We Met
Nov. 17, 2015, Pistons won 104-99 (season series 1-0 DET)
This game was about big contributions, as Andre Drummond (25 and 18 rebounds), Reggie Jackson (23 and 12 assists), Ersan Ilyasova (20 points, 4-6 3PT), Marcus Morris (14 points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13 points) all combined to sink the Cavaliers. Of course, this was at a point where the bench was struggling big time, so these gaudy numbers won't be as crucial Friday night to ensure a victory. The Pistons also managed to hold off a dominant Lebron, who had 30 points, 9 assists and 3 boards.
Players To Watch
Pistons: Andre Drummond
This is Dre's first game since receiving the nod to become an All-Star, so it will be interesting as we can see how he'll react. He can go one of two ways. He can coast and ease around knowing he's a "star", or he can reassert his dominance with a crushing performance. I hope and expect the latter. He'll also be going up against Tristan Thompson who, while a good shot blocker and excellent offensive rebounder (a tough matchup for Dre, who so often forgets to box out), is physically no match for Drummond, giving up 40 pounds in the matchup.
Cavs: Kevin Love
Love is the type of player to give us fits. However, the one thing which Ilyasova has been most criticized for is his interior defense. Love this season, for better or worse, has lived large on the perimeter, with only 21% of his looks being at the rim and 44% from distance. This doesn't mean he isn't an effective inside player who can abuse matchups, but his propensity to launch three pointers should make it easier for Ilyasova to guard him. It's more the athletic, quick power forwards Ersan struggles with.
I think we'll go 1-1 in this back-to-back, and we've played the Cavs well recently.
Pistons 106-102 Cavaliers
Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Ilyasova, Drummond
Cavaliers: Irving, Smith, James, Love, Thompson
Pistons: Meeks (foot)
Will Dre have an "I'm an All-Star" game or an "eh, I'm already an All-Star" game?