The Pistons take on the Sixers in their first challenging matchup of the season, after closer-than-desired wins against the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls. The Sixers are a good team with a legitimate chance of greatness - it’ll be interesting to see Detroit measure itself against a team ostensibly better than them this early in the year.
Here’s some things in particular to look at during tonight’s game:
Who even plays?
Andre Drummond was held out of practice yesterday with the flu and might not even play tonight:
He thinks he is, for whatever that’s worth:
well I guess that answers that? pic.twitter.com/wsO7mZqTB3— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) October 23, 2018
Update: Andre is good to go tonight, per Dwane Casey
Andre Drummond - and everybody else - available for Pistons tonight vs. 76ers, Dwane Casey says— Keith Langlois (@Keith_Langlois) October 23, 2018
On the other side, Ben Simmons tweaked his back and is questionable for tonight:
Ben Simmons didn’t practice today in Philly and is questionable for tomorrow’s game in Detroit.— Ben Mallis (@BenMallis) October 22, 2018
Speaking after practice, Brett Brown said he doesn’t know how Simmons aggravated his back. Brown also said Sixers will be conservative with Simmons if his back isn’t 100% tomorow.
Update: Ben Simmons has been downgraded to Doubtful, and Philly sounds as if it is preparing to play without him
Both of those players are vital to their team and the matchup changes drastically if either misses tonight. Detroit doesn’t have the big depth to handle superstar center Joel Embiid without Dre - Zaza Pachulia will combust in a confluence of fouls trying, Dwane Casey has been cautious with Blake-at-Center lineups, so it stands to reason he wouldn’t throw Blake Griffin into the meat grinder, and the thought of Jon Leuer trying to defend Embiid gives me hives.
Conversely, Philly is much easier to defend without Simmons - you can double or trap Embiid and make their other guys take contested shots or try to make plays. If Robert Covington and Dario Saric go 15-for-28 and you lose, you tip your cap, but it’s better than letting Embiid score 35 and throw down some demoralizing dunks.
Size and Skill versus Skill
The Sixers have a huge backcourt (Simmons-Fultz-Covington), and Casey has shown a propensity to play a small backcourt (Ish Smith-Langston Galloway-Reggie Jackson). That went poorly against the Nets’ big backcourt, and signs point to it going poorly against the Sixers as well.
Presuming that Simmons plays and Casey assigns Stanley Johnson to him, that’s only one matchup. And if Stanley is on the floor playing four next to three guards that aren’t Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard, you can’t expect his effort to erase the size advantage the Sixers will have. I hope Bullock has more to offer on defense tonight than he did against Zach LaVine, as well.
This would definitely a time to see a wing lineup of Reggie Bullock, Glenn Robinson III, and Stanley Johnson to deal with the Sixers, if Casey is willing to be so bold.
Blake Griffin: Still Good At Basketball
Blake Griffin has been extremely productive during the first two games of the season:
Blake Griffin:— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) October 22, 2018
5.5 assists (23.9 assist rate)
(I say this not to shit on Jokic but to say that Blake has been bonkers) https://t.co/qLmWZ6yZHM
Through ~3 games for each team, the top 30 MVP Scores in the league: pic.twitter.com/XEeQOPB7Fw— Jacob Goldstein (@JacobEGoldstein) October 22, 2018
If Blake isn’t matched up with Embiid, he will still have to deal with Joel’s threat as a shotblocker out of the post, but he’s shown the ability to kick out to open shooters. Dario Saric has the size, but maybe not the strength to hang with Blake - and recall that we said similar things about Bobby Portis prior to the Bulls game and that went well.
Ok, one last gushing tweet about how good Blake Griffin has been this season:
Blah blah sample size whatever, but the Pistons have a +44.6 swing in net rating when Blake Griffin is on vs off.— Sham (@shamshammgod) October 22, 2018
I’m just enjoying the ride.
When: October 23 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: NBA TV (oh god, National TV Pistons)
Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid