The Detroit Pistons have a great chance to win tonight against the Toronto Raptors — that’s what the numbers say, anyway. Sure, the Pistons are floundering, the offense is a mess and the defense can’t really keep pace. Yeah, the Raptors are easily one of the best teams in the East and win almost every individual matchup on the floor.
In one of the most curious stats in the NBA, however, Detroit is almost assured victory. The Pistons are 6-0 in the Blake Griffin era playing against teams on the second half of a back-to-back. They are 0-9 playing teams that have at least one day of rest.
Toronto is on the latter end of a back-to-back. W.
When: 8 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit / ESPN
Stan Van Gundy says the Pistons are playing “frustrated.” I’d say the frustration is understandable considering how the personnel on the floor makes it nearly impossible to run an effective offense giving anyone on the floor the kind of room to operate to full effectiveness.
Swapping out Stanley Johnson for James Ennis in the starting lineup is a start, but the Pistons’ primary problem remains that they really don’t have a starting point guard on the roster.
Ish Smith tries his best, and what he can do he is really good at. But for Smith to be effective he needs to be surrounded by at least three, and preferably four, perimeter threats and a wide open paint.
That’s not really possible with Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin sharing the floor with Ish. It also means that Detroit is putting the ball in Griffin’s hands quite a bit, but, again, it goes back to Ish.
There are few players in the NBA less suited to playing off the ball than Smith. It hasn’t worked. It doesn’t work. It won’t work. It will never work. So, yeah, frustrated.
Compounding those issues in the starting lineup are a great disparity off the bench. Detroit’s reserves have been a mess and prone to hemorrhaging leads when they hit the floor against anyone.
The Raptors feature the most dangerous bench in the NBA with a +9.8 net rating on the season and +12.5 since Jan. 1. The Pistons are at a semi-embarrassing -2.1 since the beginning of the year.
So how do the Pistons win?
Andre Drummond needs to be a beast on the boards. The Pistons need run — not something they ever like to do. Detroit’s perimeter threats need to start hitting shots. And the Pistons need to pray that the Raptors run out of gas on the end of a back-to-back. How’s that for a game plan?
Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, James Ennis, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Malcolm Miller, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Do the Pistons keep the NBA’s most bizarre streak going and notch a W tonight?