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Pistons vs. Wizards preview: Detroit visits waning Washington

Holding on to eighth in the East, the Pistons finish their four-game road trip at the same place where the “Tobias Harris Era” began, hoping for a better outcome.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit is 7-5 since the All-Star Break trade with Orlando that brought Tobias Harris to Motown, and 7-3 with him as a starter. His first game as a Piston was against the Wizards, albeit in a reserve role befitting a brand new addition. Tonight he’ll get the call from the opening tap, and his team will need another strong performance from him if they are to finally beat a Washington squad that holds a 2-0 edge in the 2015-16 series.

The Wizards reached .500 with a March 2nd victory over the Timberwolves, but have lost their last five to fall to 30-35. Four of those defeats were on the road, and they narrowly lost to Indiana at home by a point. After this game they will travel for nine of their next 16, so they must hold serve at home if they hope to make up any ground in the race for the final seed in the Eastern Conference.

Game Vitals

Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, March 14, 2016, 8:00 PM EST

Watch: FSD, EPSN

Game Analysis

Washington remains one of the most disappointing teams of 2015-16. With a loss this evening, they will match last year’s total of 36 with 16 games left to go.  At best, they have an outside chance of sneaking into the postseason; a third victory over Detroit would certainly help their slim chances.

Backcourt injuries have plagued Washington this season, which is one reason why they added erstwhile Rocket (and almost-Piston) Marcus Thornton to their roster last week. Second-leading scorer Bradley Beal (17.8 points per game) has missed 24 games and is questionable for tonight. By comparison, All-Star point guard John Wall (20.1 ppg and 9.9 assists a game) has been an iron man, starting every game and averaging 36 minutes an outing.

Another recent addition for the Wizards is Markieff Morris, who has averaged 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds a game since moving into the starting line-up seven games ago. The twin-versus-twin matchup with Detroit’s Marcus should add an interesting dimension to this game.

While a win this evening is not critical for 34-32 Detroit, it could certainly help them create more distance between themselves and 32-32 Chicago, which is visiting the Toronto Raptors tonight. A dominant performance from Andre Drummond, who has averaged only 9.5 points and 13 boards in the two previous losses to the Wizards, is probably a must if the Pistons are to prevail. He has yet to grab an offensive rebound against Washington this season.

Harris (17.7 ppg and 6.0 rpg) has been remarkably effective for Detroit, adeptly scoring at the rim (.691 percent) and from beyond the arc (.429 percent). It will help tremendously if the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who has tossed in 24 and 23 points the past two games shows up, as well.

However, the biggest recent concern for the Pistons has been their defense, which coach Stan Van Gundy has sharply criticized. They have allowed 104.5 ppg in March, a rate that would drop them from their current rank of 10th to 22nd.

Lineup Projection

Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Wizards: John Wall, Garrett Temple, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat

Injured/In Doubt

Pistons: Spencer Dinwiddie (out – ankle)

Wizards: Bradley Beal (questionable – hip injury)

Key Matchup

Reggie Jackson vs. John Wall

Wall got the better of Jackson last time around, flirting with a triple-double (22 points, eight rebounds, eight assists). Jackson recorded a more pedestrian 16 points and five assists. He got the better of Wall in their first meeting of the season, but the Wizards bench (led by backup point guard Ramon Sessions’ 14 points and nine assists) was too much for the Pistons in that narrow 97-95 November loss at The Palace.

Last Time We Met

February 19, 2015 at the Verizon Center, Wizards won 98-86

This contest was never close, as Detroit entered the fourth quarter trailing by 22 points. Wall led a balanced Washington attack with 22 points. The sole bright spot for the Pistons - most of whom did not get the memo that the All-Star Break was over - was Harris, who posted 21 points on only 12 shots off the bench.

Score Prediction

Pistons 101, Wizards 99

Community Question

Will Drummond finally snatch an offensive rebound over Gortat?