The Detroit Pistons and The Dallas Mavericks should be facing a similar question heading into their final match-up. Fight for the playoffs, or quietly fade into the background, knowing that the eighth seed in their respective conferences will most likely amount to a sweep in the first round.
For Detroit, that question has already been answered by their owner, Tom Gores - it’s playoffs or bust, and he considers his team to be buyers come the trade deadline. For Dallas, that question is more complicated - they’re 4.5 games back of the final spot in the West, have a young star in Luka Doncic who they could build around in the upcoming draft, and have big money coming off the books this offseason. A series of wins or losses to their names could change each of these franchises strategies as they approach the deadline next Thursday.
When: January 31, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
The last time these two teams faced off, it was a back and forth brawl in the second half, filled with a sense of animosity between Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Mavericks edged the Pistons by five, after Detroit’s malignant fourth quarter offense plagued them once again. Detroit only managed to score 16 points in the final frame, letting another winnable game go by the wayside.
Look for Blake Griffin to put up another monster performance tonight; the Mavs don’t have an answer for Griffin on their roster. While he may not put up 35 points again, the trio of Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes and DeAndre Jordan aren’t fit to handle Griffin’s inside-out offensive game.
Speaking of Doncic, he clearly checks the “next superstar” box, and should easily nab Rookie of the Year honors once this season concludes. He’s averaged 20.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists this season; and in case you haven’t heard it on every NBA broadcast, he’s just 19 years old. He decimated Detroit this past Friday, dropping 32 points, eight assists, and seven boards, only looked human when Stanley Johnson was tasked with the defensive assignment. You should expect Doncic to keep his good vibes rolling tonight.
If Detroit’s going to win this game, they’re going to need a Luke Kennard and/or Langston Galloway sighting - the tandem combined for a mere eight points against Dallas on Friday. Their production will be vital since starting wing Reggie Bullock is listed as questionable for the second straight game.
If the Pistons want to win this game, or hell, make the playoffs, they cannot allow another Blake and Andre 50-piece to result in a loss. That means someone, ANYONE, has to step up and produce above their normal roles.
Detroit Pistons (21-28):
Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown Jr., Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Dallas Mavericks (23-27):
Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Luka Doncic, DeAndre Jordan
Detroit 104, Dallas 100