Not sure how you had the Pistons after 37 games, but 16-21 - neck and neck with the Orlando Magic - isn’t how most saw the season going. At this point all games are important if there is still a chance of meaningful basketball being played in April.
Enter the Charlotte Hornets.
The Pistons have already played the Hornets twice this season, both on the road, earning a split. The last game came on December 7th, when the Hornets won 87-77 despite Andre Drummond’s 26 points and 20 rebounds. Kemba Walker scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to put the Pistons away for good.
When: Thursday, January 5th at 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Palace of Auburn Hills; Auburn Hills, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
The Hornets lost to Chicago earlier this week, largely due to Jimmy Butler’s 52 points. While Butler is certainly talented, Charlotte played without Cody Zeller who was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol. Zeller will probably play his entire career without making an All-Star Game, but ask any one of the dozens and dozens of Hornet fans worldwide and they will tell you just how important he is to their winning ways.
Taking out Zeller means more minutes for the robotic Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes - both are clearly not on the defensive level of Zeller.
Watch how much Hibbert sags on the Butler led pick and roll:
This takes dropping back to another level:
And one more:
That room simply doesn’t exist if Zeller is in the game. But it’s just not Hibbert, Hawes falls victim as well:
Now, what other team can you think of that consistently puts the opponents center in the pick and roll? That’s right, your Pistons. If Zeller isn’t playing, they must attack Hibbert/Hawes. If he ends up playing, attack when he sits. Reggie Jackson should have (relatively) no problem making plays for himself and his teammates.
Over the past two weeks, Charlotte’s do-it-all forward Nic Batum has literally done it all, averaging over 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and nearly seven assists per game. That type of ability puts pressure on a defense in a multitude of ways.
As of late, the Hornets have adjusted their rotation to include Batum as the lone starter leading the bench unit. This gives him ample opportunities to score and distribute:
You can’t talk about the Hornets without mentioning Kemba Walker. If he’s not an All-Star this year, a full investigation should be launched into the reformed voting process.
Walker is a load to keep in front of; Reggie Jackson found out the hard way earlier this year:
Walker leads the league in scoring off a pick and roll and is shooting over 41 percent from beyond the arc. He’s having a fantastic year....except for one, small mishap:
Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Roy Hibbert, Nic Batum, Marvin Williams
Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, Jon Leuer, Marcus Morris
Ah yes, the absolute worst part of the Game Preview - the prediction.
Nothing either team does should come as a surprise. The Hornets are on the second night of a back-to-back and despite depriving the Metro Detroit area youth of seeing Cody Zeller in person, I
hope think they keep him rested.
Hornets 98, Pistons 104