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Pistons vs. Pelicans Preview: Short-handed Pistons face the NBA’s top frontcourt

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“Fire and Ice” hope to wear down the Pistons

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons continue to win games against the top shelf of the Western Conference. They found a way to take down the Houston Rockets (sans James Harden) without Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson and Jon Leuer on Saturday night, and will be short-handed once again for Monday’s night contest against the New Orleans Pelicans. Luckily for Detroit, the Pelicans are currently in the playoff picture in the West, and those caliber clubs seem to be the only teams the Pistons can beat since Jackson’s injury.

Jokes aside, Detroit is already short-handed in the front-court, with Leuer still sidelined with his ankle injury from the beginning of the season, but they may have Drummond back just in time to square up against Anthony Davis and/or DeMarcus Cousins.

Game Vitals

When: Monday, January 8, 2018, 8:00 p.m. EST

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

Watch: FSN Detroit, NBA League Pass

Analysis

Statistically speaking, to say the Pistons have played poorly since Jackson’s injury would be an understatement. Yes, the Pistons have won two games against high quality teams (the Spurs and the Rockets), but they’ve also been blown out by the middling Philadelphia 76ers and annual draft lottery attendee, Orlando Magic.

On a positive note, Detroit has made defense a priority (ranking No. 9 in the league in defensive rating over their last five games), and have needed to do so seeing how the offense has been, well, struggling.

Take a look at some of their recent rankings and statistics from their last five games (all without Jackson).

Last 5 games (record 2-3)

30th - Points (94.4/game), Rebound Percentage (45 percent)

28th - Offensive Rating (98.6)

27th - True Shooting Percentage (52.6 percent)

26th - Field Goal Percentage (44.1 percent), Three point attempts (23.6/game), Free Throw Attempts (18.4/game)

24th - Effective Field Goal Percentage (49.6 percent)

The offense has been, well, offensive.

****

Keys to the game

Tobias Harris, Anthony Tolliver, Andre Drummond, and Eric Moreland will have their hands full with the most potent frontcourt duo in the league in Cousins and Davis. “Fire and Ice,” as Cousins has dubbed the duo, are averaging a combined 51.5 points, 22.9 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 3.6 blocks and 2.6 steals per game. BANANAS. Containing one of these two All-stars will be vital if Detroit wants to keep this one close.

If Detroit is going to find a way to win, the Pistons second unit outperforming the Pelicans bench will play a major part. The Pelicans rank dead last in bench scoring, as they only average 24 points per game. Detroit’s bench averages 32.6 points per game but is the NBA’s top-ranked bench defense: The Pistons’ bench only allows 29.8 points per game on average. They’ll need Tolliver to take a step-up in production, Dwight Buycks to continue showing he can handle the back-up role, and who knows, maybe even give Langston Galloway some run as he faces off against his old club.

Prediction

“Fire and Ice” (I can’t tell if that’s better or worse than “Boogie and The Brow”) will be too much for Detroit’s moniker-less frontcourt to handle.

Detroit 100, New Orleans 108