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Pistons vs. Thunder preview: OKC, streaking hot, comes to Motown

OKC is so hot right now. Can the Pistons cool them off?

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Situation

All that matters now is the Playoffs.

If that sounds familiar, it's because I said the same thing on Saturday, but it still holds true.

After a tough loss to the Hawks, the Pistons remain in control of their playoff destiny. Now 2.5 games up over both the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, the Pistons have a little bit of separation and a better than 70-percent chance at making the playoffs.

That said, the Pistons face one of their biggest remaining challenges Tuesday night at The Palace, the eighth game in their nine-game home stand.

On the upside, the Pistons have played well at home all season, and there's plenty to get them motivated. First, and obviously, the playoffs are on the line, and every win counts.

That is motivation enough by itself, but on top of that, the Thunder handily defeated the Pistons back in November. Kevin Durant went off, scoring 34 points, snagging thirteen boards, and blocking three (!!!) shots. No Piston played up to his potential, including Reggie Jackson against his former team.

Also, OKC played on Monday, and the Pistons have had a few days off.

On the downside, there may not be a worse time to play the Thunder. Coming off a thumping of the Raptors on Monday in Toronto, OKC has now won eight consecutive games and ten of their last twelve. Russell Westbrook - who had yet another triple-double - and Kevin Durant combined for 60 points, 19 boards, and 20 assists. In any season other than the one in which the Golden State Warriors threaten history, Durant and Westbrook would both deserve to be legitimate MVP candidates.

They are so hot right now. What can the Pistons do to cool them off?

Keys to the Game

Make open shots: The Pistons offensive output has been all over the map this season, but at least one thing has been consistent: the Pistons' offense generates lots of open three-point shots. When they fall, the Pistons can beat anyone.

Defense starts at Point Guard: I've said it before, and I'll say it again - defense starts with the point guard position, and for the Pistons to take the next step defensively, Reggie Jackson has to own his defensive responsibilities. Asking him - or anyone - to shut down Russell Westbrook just isn't reasonable. Westbrook is just too good. But, Reggie has to at least slow him down and minimize dribble penetration, especially in the half court. (Editor's note: Westbrook is actually 13-for-33 shooting (36 points) with 15 turnovers and only 11 assists in the last two games against the Pistons, and it's KCP who has a lot to do with that.)

Own the glass: Going by rebound percentage, the Pistons and Thunder are among the best teams in the NBA, but OKC has the slight edge. In fact, if their offense wasn't already potent enough, OKC is the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA by rebound percentage. Nothing is more demoralizing to a team's defense than playing good defense and losing the possession anyway as a result of giving up an offensive rebound. To win, the Pistons need to play good team defense and finish the play by cleaning the defensive glass.

QuestionFill in the blank of the Game

If the Pistons hold the Thunder to ___ points, the Pistons can win this game.