If the Detroit faithful think it has been a long time since their team experienced postseason play, they can at least be thankful that they are not destined to see their drought reach 10 straight years as it surely will for Sacramento. But a third straight loss could increase the odds that the Pistons’ streak will extend to seven years, so a win tonight is essential.
Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
When: Friday, March 18, 2016, 7:30 PM EST
Currently 11th in the Western Conference at 26-41, the Kings have won just four of 14 since the All-Star Break. It would take a string of 15 wins to close the season for them to reach .500, which is the record now held by the seventh/eighth best teams in the West. Their .388 win-loss percentage is the best they have achieved since 2007-08, however, which is also the last time Sacramento won over 30 games.
The Kings lead the league in pace, so it’s no surprise that they are third best in scoring with 106.7 points per game. Unfortunately, their defense concedes a league worst 109.5 ppg. Since the Pistons have given up nearly 118 ppg over their last four outings, no one should expect a defensive struggle on the Auburn Hills hardwood.
Rajon Rondo runs the Sacramento attack, and is averaging 11.9 assists and 11.9 points per game. Six Kings average double-figures in scoring, but the leader is combustible center DeMarcus Cousins with 27.2 ppg. Rudy Gay chips in 17.3 ppg.
Cousins was recently suspended for a game for conduct detrimental to the team by Head Coach George Karl after he blew up toward the end of a home loss to Cleveland. He scored 31 points when he next saw the floor versus Utah, though, so his well publicized conflicts with his coach do not seem to hinder his offensive output.
At 34-34, Detroit is in a neck-and-neck battle with 33-33 Chicago for the East’s eighth seed, with 32-35 Washington threatening to race past them both. The Pistons began a nine-game home stand with a 114-118 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday. Starting tonight they will face four foes in six nights that are all lottery-bound, so they badly need to commence a winning streak. Of course, if Reggie Jackson has to miss significant playing time due to health issues, all of these contests could become much more challenging for the starter-dependent Pistons.
Since 2008-09 Detroit holds a 12-3 edge in the series, but they lost in Sacramento way back in November during a six-game road trip to the West Coast. The Kings were struggling back then, too, having stumbled to a 1-7 start. But with an abundance of offensive firepower and a center who is not shy about shooting from anywhere on the floor, they are exactly the kind of team that can give the Pistons’ defense fits. If this game becomes a shoot-out, Sacramento’s .463 field goal accuracy is a better bet than Detroit’s .439.
Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond
Kings: Rajon Rondo, James Anderson, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein, DeMarcus Cousins
Pistons: Spencer Dinwiddie (questionable – ankle), Reggie Jackson (questionable – shortness of breath), Jodie Meeks (questionable – foot)
Kings: Marco Belinelli (questionable – ankle), Ben McLemore (questionable – finger), Eric Moreland (questionable – foot), Rajon Rondo (questionable – toe)
Andre Drummond vs. DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins is fourth in scoring in the NBA, and easily outdistances Brook Lopez (20.8 ppg) among the centers. But among the top 20 pivot men only Jared Sullinger shoots worse than Cousins’ .447. Drummond will need to contests his shots more closely than he did when these teams faced each back in November. The other key will be for him to help Detroit dominate the boards. His 17 rebounds (nine offensive) were a bright spot in what was an otherwise disappointing early season defeat.
Last Time We Met
November 11, 2015 at Sleep Train Arena, Kings won 101-92
Cousins scored 33 points (making 4-5 of his threes), Gay added 25, and Rondo posted a near triple-double with 15 assists, 14 points and nine boards. Sacramento jumped out to a 36-23 first quarter lead and never looked back. Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris each scored 16 points for Detroit, which shot just .382 from the floor while the Kings blistered the nets for .500.
Pistons 116, Kings 112
Cousins will get his points, but can Detroit keep Rondo from slicing through its soft butter defense?