Throughout this early season, the majority of the Detroit Pistons’ wins have come against sub .500 teams. They’ve also proven to be a thorn in the Indiana Pacers’ side, knocking them off in three of four games, and had an impressive showing against the Brooklyn Nets back in early November, but other than that, they’ve been outplayed once they suit up against better competition.
Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, who’ve taken the NBA by storm by winning sixteen of their first twenty-three games, provides an excellent opportunity for Detroit notch a notable win against a quality opponent. The Pistons should be riding high - they’ve won four of their last five games, including the last two in nail-biting fashion, and will be playing in front of a much more lively “home” crowd down in Mexico City, compared to what they are used to in Detroit.
When: Thursday, December 12, 9:00 p.m. EST
Where: Mexico City Arena, Mexico City, Mexico
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
Although you may be surprised to see the Dallas Mavericks currently situated in the top three in the Western Conference, you shouldn’t be surprised who got them there. Luka Doncic has been everything advertised and then some. He’s putting up MVP-type numbers on a nightly basis, averaging 30 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.2 assists. Although his three-point shooting has dipped since his Rookie of The Year campaign, he’s averaging an impressive 62% true shooting percentage thanks to his ability to get to the charity stripe nine-plus times per game.
The Pistons, specifically Tony Snell and Bruce Brown, are going to have their hands full trying to slow down Doncic, seeing how they’ve struggled to stop dynamic scoring wings throughout this season. Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Brandon Ingram and even Andrew Wiggins have all had their way with Detroit this year, and none of them are playing at the level that Doncic is. If they can make Doncic uncomfortable throughout the course of the game, and make their secondary scorers (Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr.) lead the way, that should bode well for the “home” team.
For Detroit, if they’re going to win their third game in a row, they’ll need Blake Griffin to look like he did for the majority of last season. The Mavericks will likely start Kristaps Porzingis on Griffin, and although KP’s an excellent shot-blocking big, that’s a mismatch for Detroit. Porzingis is not a versatile defender and Griffin’s outside game should give him problems and open up opportunities for drives to the basket. If Griffin can prove to be a matchup problem for KP, the Mavericks may find themselves forced to switch him onto Drummond - who (if he doesn’t rack up three fouls in the first ten minutes) will have a distinct rebounding advantage no matter who he faces off against in the paint.
Another area to watch for is the three point line - Detroit currently ranks atop the league in three point shooting percentage, and although they’re undersized compared to the massive Mavericks, their smaller guards and wings (Kennard, Galloway, Mykhailiuk) should be able to run rampant through Dallas’ defense, using a maze of screens for clean looks in spot-up situations.
The blueprint seems simple, right? Slow down the MVP candidate, ensure your two stars play their best, win the paint and the three, and wrap, that’s a W.
Detroit Pistons (10-14):
Bruce Brown Jr., Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Dallas Mavericks (16-7):
Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell
What are your keys to the game?