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Pistons at Grizzlies preview: Detroit’s floundering offense faces a top-5 defense

Both of these teams have struggled to win games lately. Which will come out on top?

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NBA: Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off yet another bad loss to a good team - this time, a 23-point loss to the best-in-conference Milwaukee Bucks - the Detroit Pistons look to regain some semblance of offensive consistency against... the fifth-best defensive team in the league.

Hoo boy.


Game Vitals:

When: January 2, 2019, 8 p.m. ET
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit+, NBA League Pass


The Memphis Grizzlies, a poor offensive team with a great defense, have fallen off their early-season playoff pace due to playing tougher competition since the beginning of December.

Where have I heard that before?

Anyway, both teams are 3-7 in their last 10 games. However, Detroit has lost to Atlanta and Orlando, and Memphis has lost to the Lakers, Houston twice, the Warriors, and Boston. So, not quite the same level of competition faced for the two squads, but losses still count.

The Grizzlies are somehow a worse offensive team than the Pistons (Det: 105.7 ORTG, Mem: 105.2 ORTG) but a clearly better defensive team (Mem: 105.3 DRTG, Det 108.0 DRTG). The combination of two bad offensive teams means it looks like a rockfight tonight - at least the Pistons should be able to compete in a rockfight:

I already have a bad feeling about this.

Memphis is led by the PNR duo of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, and the rookie sensation from Michigan State, Jaren Jackson Jr. Conley is averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, Gasol is averaging 16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and almost three “stocks” (steals + blocks) per game, and the Grizzlies have a +8.3 NetRTG when the two share the floor:

JJJ is leading the team in blocks (1.7 per game) and is the third-leading scorer for the Grizz, so you’d expect him to be a big part of the team’s success. However, there’s already concern in Memphis over JJJ’s lack of minutes in the clutch:

JJJ’s weakness is, as you’d expect for a rookie big man, fouling - he averages 7.7 fouls per-100 possessions. If matched up against Blake Griffin, it stands to reason that Blake can draw some fouls on him, maybe get him out of rhythm, and weaken the Grizzlies that way.

The Pistons, for their part, are dealing with impactful injuries - Ish Smith is still out with his groin injury, and Zaza Pachulia and Stanley Johnson did not play against Milwaukee with knee contusions suffered in Orlando. The Pistons are also dealing with lackluster wing play - a consistent theme throughout this season:

To that end, second-round pick Khyri Thomas got minutes against the Bucks and played... well? decently? He scored 13 points, made two threes, got rooked on a couple of foul calls, and generally looked no better or worse than any other available options on the wing for Detroit. That’s an indictment of the Pistons’ roster more than it is a statement of Thomas’ potential and current level of play.

If Langston Galloway continues his ice-cold shooting (31.1 percent from three in the month of December) expect to see more, not less, of Khyri Thomas.

Projected Lineups:

Detroit Pistons (16-19):
Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown Jr., Reggie Bullock, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Memphis Grizzlies (18-18):
Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol


Pistons at a rest disadvantage (they played last night and Memphis didn’t) against a good defensive team, in the midst of struggling offensively? Doesn’t look good for our heroes.

Memphis 108, Detroit 99

Question of the Day:

Over or under 33.5 percent for the Pistons’ three-point percentage tonight?