Tonight, at 7:00 p.m. EST, the Detroit Pistons are on the road in the nation’s capital, where they will face the Washington Wizards. The Pistons are on one day of rest after beating the Nets on Saturday. The Wizards are also on one day of rest after getting blown out by the Karl-Anthony Towns-less Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Wizards suck. They will probably suck all season, but they are a brand of suckiness that is plucky and shouldn’t be taken lightly. They come into tonight sporting the sixth-best offensive efficiency, scoring 109.3 points per 100 possessions, and the 27th-ranked defense, allowing 113.7 points per 100 possessions.
The Wizards are, of course, led by Bradley Beal. Even if he’s in a bit of a shooting slump to open up the season, Beal is a true superstar. Beal can score at all three levels as a high-level shooter, driver, and finisher - and he’s a solid playmaker as well. When so inclined, or able to muster the energy after carrying the offense, he’s even a solid defender.
After Beal the Wizards do have a few other solid players. Thomas Bryant was a nice find in the second round who is a solid swiss-army-knife type of defender. Davis Bertans is one of the best shooters alive, Ish Smith (as you all know) is still a speed demon who gets into transition at every opportunity. Rookie Rui Hachimura has been as poor on defense (as you’d expect), but his offense has looked quite good. He doesn’t shoot threes and doesn’t draw many fouls which is a bit concerning but, for now, he’s keeping up his efficiency by canning short range jumpers and slicing up fools in the post.
Former Michigan star Mo Wagner seems to have finally found a place in the league and is off to a good start, Isaac Bonga is a big-wing type although it’s not clear he does much that’s actually very useful. Isaiah Thomas is here and he’s off to a good start. They’ve rotated a few other guys at the end of the rotation but I won’t pretend to know much about them.
This team doesn’t defend, but they have legitimate scoring firepower - they scored 158 points against Houston last week. The combination of Bradley Beal and a bunch of guys who can shoot will have that sort of result. Also, Bradley Beal remains the sort of guy who can go and win a game by himself.
One last note about the Wizards: They are -10.8 per 100 possessions when Beal is on the floor and are +8.0 when he’s off. AND YET it’s wild how no serious people are suggesting that this is some sign about how Beal isn’t actually that good, but are more than willing to do so with Andre Drummond. And the lesson here isn’t “Beal actually may not be that good,” it’s that when a roster is broken, the gap is usually with the starters, so even great players can only do so much. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Matchups to watch:
- Pistons vs. Beal: I have very little faith in anybody on this roster to slow him down even a little bit. Bruce Brown Jr. hasn’t been the same on defense this season, and even if he was Beal is a bit big for him. It may come down to keeping everyone else in check, but if they can pull something out of a hat to contain Beal it would be big.
- Andre vs. The Fishing Village: Andre has a great shot to go for a historical fourth straight 20/20 game. Thomas Bryant is not a pushover, but he’s also not near Andre’s level. After Bryant, Dre should be able to totally physically dominate anyone else Washington has to offer. As always, avoiding foul trouble against the conga-line of opposing ball-handlers coming into the paint will be key.
- Ish Smith revenge game: I’m not joking. Although Ish left on good terms (as far as I know), he will likely have a little extra for the Pistons. We all know that he can occasionally have games where the mid-range shot is dropping and he’s dynamite for a night. Hopefully that doesn’t happen tonight.
- Blake vs. maybe? There’s a chance he returns tonight. (Editor’s Note: He will not return tonight.) Obviously this would be a very good thing for the Pistons offense. If he does it will be most important to watch and see if he actually looks 100%, and also for the usual rust/chemistry stuff.
- Bruce/Luke vs. A repeat: Bruce got most of the shine, but both guys ran a lot of point against the Nets. It was simplified, and neither actually did much in terms of proper point-guard stuff, but they made it work to a functioning offense. Rose should be back tonight (Editor’s Note: Rose is also out.) but those two holding a ball-handling torch again would be huge.
- Svi vs. Continued competence: Looked just fine last time out. I’m still worried about him holding up on defense, but if he has a few more games of not looking out of place on the floor it would be a nice boost for the Pistons.
So, in conclusion:
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
- Andre has a double double in the first half.
- Ish is trying too hard and missing shots.
- “Aaaaannnnnd at power foward. The six-time all-star from OOoooOOOOklahoma...”
Run for the hills if:
- Bradley Beal is scoring whenever and wherever and however he wants.
- Ish Smith Revenge Game.
- Rui Hachimura eats the lunch of the Pistons backup bigs.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
- Griffin and Rose play tonight.
- Andre gets his fourth straight 20/20 game.
- Beal scores 40.
- Despite Beal’s huge night, the Pistons keep Washington in control and win comfortably.
- Pistons 126 - Wizards 115.
What do you think? Will Blake play and how will he look? Can they contain Beal? Let’s hear it in the comments.