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Pistons vs Pacers Preview: Slow out of the gate

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Neither the Pistons nor the Pacers have had the desired start to the season

Detroit Pistons v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Both the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers had playoff expectations coming into this season. However, the teams have combined for a single win thus far - and it came in a game where they played one another. Both teams really could use this early-season win to right the ship, but only one will come out on top tonight.

Game Vitals:

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Analysis:

The thing I’m most curious about tonight is how Dwane Casey chooses to handle the Pacers’ frontcourt of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. In their prior meeting this year, Casey was (understandably? justifiably?) terrified of Thon Maker guarding Sabonis, and so Andre Drummond played 41 minutes and guarded Sabonis most of that time. Andre can’t guard both of those guys simultaneously - does Casey trust Christian Wood with that assignment? I HIGHLY doubt it. So, to keep Andre out of another 40-minute night, Markieff Morris is going to have to move his feet on the perimeter and stay with Turner.

The Pistons also closed with a smaller lineup of Derrick Rose, Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, and Dre, leaving Snell on Turner (the more perimeter-orientated of the two bigs). The Pacers, to my surprise, did not choose to attack that small lineup on the glass to create extra opportunities in a tight game - something I think they will do this time around if the Pistons go small. Snell and Brown did an admirable job on the glass (and so did Andre), but they don’t have the size to keep Turner and T.J. Warren off the glass if the Pacers choose to go that route.

The story of the season so far for Detroit has been the starters struggling offensively, and the bench (especially the pairing of Kennard and Rose) picking up that slack. That should continue tonight - the Pacers are having real issues off the bench, as this piece from The Fieldhouse’s Ben Gibson illustrates:

Indiana’s bench is one of their more glaring weaknesses. A factor in the bench’s decline is that Sabonis is now a starter. Gone is the hub of the bench’s offense and the rebounding machine to fuel their success. His absence is the biggest reason for their drop from 10th in scoring last season to dead last now, with only 19 points a game at a shooting percentage of 30%.

(Check out The Fieldhouse - a lot of quality Indiana Pacers writers doing their thing over there.)

Even if the Pistons move Kennard into the starting lineup, something Casey talked about after the Philly game, the Pistons should still have an advantage when the two bench units line up.

As for the Pistons’ starters, they need to, at the bare minimum, take care of the basketball. Against the 76ers, the Pistons’ starting backcourt of Brown and Tim Frazier combined for seven turnovers - some of them forced, some of them ... unforced:

Philadelphia is one of the better defensive teams in the league and is going to cause a lot of havoc for their opponents, but the Pistons also can’t carelessly give the ball away either. Limiting some (SOME) of those turnovers should help the Pistons be better offensively.

Lastly, Derrick Rose and Malcolm Brogdon took turns torching one another in their previous matchup. That was fun to watch, but perimeter defense remains a weakness of the Pistons - they have to keep Brogdon out of the lane, where he can create for the Pacers’ rolling big men.

Prediction:

The Pistons start slow, but the combination of their good bench and the Pacers’ bad bench pulls them ahead and keeps them there.

Pistons 112, Pacers 107