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Pistons at Thunder preview: A fully rested Detroit team looks to bounce back

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Detroit plays six of their next seven games on the road, starting in Oklahoma City.

NBA: New York Knicks at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder ended a two game skid with an impressive 108-91 win on Thanksgiving Eve at home against the Golden State Warriors. Any win against the reigning champs is notable. However, let the record show: The Pistons beat the Warriors before it was cool to beat the Warriors.

At 8-9, the Thunder are still trying to fit the OK3 puzzle pieces of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook together. Large lost leads (six of their nine losses came after the Thunder were up double-digits), second-half collapses, and poor play in the clutch (I am sensing a theme) are prime suspects for the moderate start of the season.

The Pistons, on the other hand, have made a white-knuckled habit of falling behind and staging a comeback—the double-digit deficit types—during six of their eleven wins.

So whatever happens early, don’t change the channel.

Game Vitals

When: November 24th @ 8 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena - Oklahoma City, OK

Watch: Fox Sports Plus (League Pass)

Analysis

OKC owns a top-three defense per 100 possessions thanks in large part to their extraordinary ability to corral any ball handler — they are allowing a mere .678 PPP in the pick-and-roll. They feel comfortable switching on the PNR, and aren’t shy about trapping or hedging. Essentially, OKC does whatever it takes to get the ball out of the ballhandler’s hands.

Sound familiar?

Cleveland suffocated Detroit’s PNR (which may or may not be a main focus of next week’s Close Out) by forcing the ball out of Reggie Jackson’s control - leading to an alarming amount of turnovers and ugly shot attempts.

Aggressive PNR defense is susceptible to crisp ball movement or ball reversals, and almost always generates big vs. small mismatches in favor of the offense.

If the Pistons are going to make the Thunder pay for their attacking defense, then they must do a much better job at locating the weakness than they showcased during the 116-88 loss against the Cavaliers.

Mismatches come in all shapes and forms, including on the glass. The Thunder are ranked No. 27 in defensive rebounding percentage, in part because they’re so switch-heavy. When ball handlers penetrate against the typically slower-footed switched defender, it naturally causes rotations, leading to easy put-backs:

Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons are obsessed with getting back on defense. I’ll be watching to see if they make an exception (or at least smartly pick-and-choose) to crash the boards.

****

On a team with Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, it’s not a surprise the Thunder lead the league in isolation possessions.

The your turn / my turn / your turn offensive set has typically reared its head during their second-half collapses, and the Pistons goal should be to turn them into isolation scorers which at this point.

Shouldn’t be hard to do.

Projected Lineup

Detroit

Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris

Oklahoma City

Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George

Prediction

The Reggie Jackson hate-fest has probably died down amongst the Thunder faithful, but I’m guessing Westbrook never forgets:

Pistons 104, Thunder 100