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Pistons vs. Bulls preview: Reggie Jackson’s progress is best reason to watch

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Unless, of course, you really think the Detroit Pistons can sneak into the playoffs.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons have more in common than one might think. They’ve both made a major trade in the past year, that will have serious franchise implications for years to come; they both have looming questions and doubts over their front office management, and they’ll both be watching the playoffs from the comfort of their own living rooms. Soak it all in.

These two (one time) titans of the Central Division face off Saturday night, in what will be their third meeting of the regular season. The series is split 1-1, and will wrap up on April 11, the final day either of these teams will be playing basketball this season (unless you’re a playoffs truther).

Game Vitals

When: Saturday, March 24th, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit +, NBA League Pass
Odds: Detroit -11

Analysis

While this game will most likely be meaningless in terms of playoff implications (Detroit still has a 1.4 percent chance to make the playoffs per ESPN BPI), there are some aspects of on-court basketball that are intriguing, to say the least. Reggie Jackson’s continued progress is at the top of the list.

If Detroit is going to make waves next season, play over .500 basketball, and make the big dance in 2019, it’ll be because Jackson, Drummond and Griffin is a success. Statistically speaking, Jackson’s first two games back after the injury have not been pretty. He’s averaging 5.5 points while shooting 25 percent from the floor (on 10 FGA) and 12.5 percent from three. He’s yet to visit the free throw stripe, and is averaging 1 assist per game. And that’s OK.

Jackson is still on a minutes restriction, as he should be, and it takes times to find your legs after such a debilitating lower leg injury. One of the most positive elements to Jackson’s return, is simply the return on him being back in the line-up. The spacing has already improved. Below you’ll see a clip from the Phoenix game, where Elfrid Payton is sticking to Jackson like glue 30 feet away from the basket.

This type of point guard defense hasn’t confronted Detroit since Jackson went down. Now the play didn’t result in a great looking shot, but this is the type of spacing needed if you’re going to have Drummond and Griffin on the floor together.

Jackson will still be on a minutes restriction for Saturday’s game, but it’ll be great to see him continue to progress, and continue to be a positive impact on the floor, even if his shot isn’t falling.

For Chicago, they’ll be without three of their most exciting young players as Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen have all been ruled out (hence the 11 point spread for Detroit).

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons:
Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson

Chicago Bulls:
Cameron Payne, Justin Holiday, Cristiano Felicio, Bobby Portis, Noah Vonleh

Prediction

Detroit covers the spread.