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Pistons vs. Hornets preview: Charlotte’s Walker, Batum bring a tough fight

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The Pistons are in desperate need to right their road wrongs.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Scheduling oddities are abundant in the NBA and with the Detroit Pistons coming to town, the Charlotte Hornets will conclude a four-game-in-five-day set. Oddly enough, a quirk-within-a-quirk had the Hornets losing on the road to the New York Knicks in overtime on November 25 only to fly overnight and play those same Knicks in Charlotte on the 26th.

If anyone needs a break on the road, it’s our Pistons and catching the Hornets in this scenario certainly qualifies.

Game Vitals

When: November 29th, 7 p.m. EST

Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Analysis

Kemba Walker might not actually be the best point guard in the Eastern Conference, but he sure is playing like it. Walker is averaging a shade under 25 points per game and nearly half of those points come from creating his own shot in a ball handling capacity.

If the Hornets can force teams to switch a big onto Walker, that big is Toast with a capital T:

Adding to the difficulty of defending Walker is his current career high of 42 percent three point shooting. Earlier in the year against Toronto, Walker scored a season high 40 points including 7 for 12 from beyond the arc.

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Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford is probably most noted for his defensive-minded approach but starting last year, Clifford shifted his offense (and roster) to a more modern style including the common four out-one in set.

This type of set should look familiar to Pistons’ fans as Detroit will initiate offense - more so with a healthy Reggie Jackson - in a very similar way. This gives Walker all the space in the world to create not only for himself but also drive-and-kick three point shot opportunities for Nic Batum, Marco Belinelli, Marvin Williams, and Frank Kaminsky.

The Hornets’ “new look” finished fourth in three point attempts for the 2015-16 season and are currently ninth in the same category this year. To give you an idea of the difference in mindset and play, Charlotte ranked 24th in three point attempts in 2014-15.

While Walker’s large step forward is certainly important to Charlotte’s offense, the addition and subsequent resigning of Nic Batum shouldn’t be overlooked.

Batum is basketball’s version of a five tool player and his versatility gives Charlotte another playmaker on offense and a player who can also defend a variety of skill sets.

One of Charlotte’s go-to four out-one in sets involves Batum playing a ball handling forward. Below, Batum receives an entry pass at the top of the key and Roy Hibbert comes to set the screen. It’s a pick and roll between the forward and center and they are flanked by shooters.

If Batum is allowed to turn the corner, he’ll be in full on attack mode. Mophatt1 guarantees you will see this in action unless....

Batum is battling an eye irritation which caused him to miss the Hornets’ home game against the Knicks. Stay tuned to GameThread for a final verdict on his availability.

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If the Zeller’s held a family fantasy draft, it’s safe to assume Hornets’ forward/center Cody Zeller would be first pick. Cody’s box score won’t cause a double take but he’s a winner and in turn, a large part of Charlotte’s success. Zeller’s net rating of 14.8 is top 10 (of qualified players) in the league and is sandwiched between Draymond Green and Al Horford - solid company for a much less notable player.

The Hornets can also throw a healthy (knock on wood) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist onto the court to stir up trouble. MKG is a solid defender who - like Batum - can defend multiple positions. The Hornets rarely, if ever, call an offense play for Kidd-Gilchrist but there’s a good chance he’ll end up with double digit points simply by making solid offensive choices (put backs, cutting). He’s a pretty self aware dude.

Projected Lineup

Detroit

Ish Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris

Charlotte

Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Prediction

Steve Clifford considers Stan Van Gundy (and Jeff Van Gundy) a mentor as Clifford was on SVG’s staff in Orlando. This type of relationship always makes for a fun watch.

Both coaches preach transition defense and limiting turnovers, so don’t expect too many fast break points or even opportunities.

Charlotte is one of the league leaders in defending the paint; conversely, Detroit is a league leader in points scored in the paint. As with most games played sans Reggie Jackson, it could come down to Andre Drummond imposing his will, or not.

I’m hoping the fourth game in five nights takes a toll on the Hornets.

Pistons 104, Hornets 91