We’ll start with some very simple numbers:
On it’s face, that means the Pistons are a better team - and they’ve played like it so far. The Pistons are, at least, a team with more talent that the Kings. However, that hasn’t stopped Pistons teams of the past from failing to take an opponent like Sacramento seriously and losing games that they shouldn’t - especially on the second game of a back-to-back. There are even examples of that this season: Detroit has already played down to the level of their competition against the Lakers, resulting in a sour tang from an overall successful western road trip.
Last night, the Pistons did a great job of making the Bucks stars work for their points last night (27 shots to get 29 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, 17 shots to get 16 points from Khris Middleton). Attribute a lot of that to the defensive work of Stanley Johnson and Avery Bradley - who shouldn't let up against players who aren’t at the level of a Greek Freak.
Additionally, it’d be nice to see Tobias Harris (13 points, 5-of-13 shooting) and Reggie Jackson (nine points, 3-of-11 shooting) bounce back from relatively rough nights. Jackson, in particular, played a very ugly brand of hero-ball in the fourth quarter. Even though the Pistons were winning, playing like that preserves habits that this team doesn’t want. Running the offense thoroughly and well tonight will push back against some of that.
The Kings are 1-7, with their only win coming against the Dallas Mavericks, who are 1-9. Fortunately, the element of the Kings that has given the Pistons fits in the past - DeMarcus Cousins - is no longer a part of the team. But this is a feisty team, equal parts kids and vets.
The blow could come from any angle with the Kings. It could be Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic, two perimeter players with definite potential to catch fire from deep. It could be one of the vault of young bigs of varying talent - Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Georgios Papagiannis - or old head Zach Randolph who plays with enough energy to give the Pistons’ interior defenders issues. It could be the quickness of De’Aaron Fox getting into the lane, or the patient precision of George Hill making the correct pass to the open man repeatedly.
There are ways this Kings team can beat you.
You look around the East - the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat are under .500. The Washington Wizards are .500. Yes, those teams will presumably rise in the standings - so the Pistons have to bank as many wins as they can early in the season to stay ahead or keep pace with them.
The Pistons are playing well so far. They need to keep playing well on this homestand, get the win tonight, and continue to prove they should be taken seriously in the Eastern Conference.