The Detroit Pistons haven’t exactly righted the ship, but they have gotten a little healthier and it’s leading to some more competent basketball. While Detroit is bereft of difference makers on the defensive end, a soft spot in their schedule plus some added bodies to the rotation has turned their defense from a car wreck into simply distressing. In the past eight games, Detroit is giving up 106.5 points per 100 possessions, good for 10th in the NBA. New Orleans, meanwhile, has lost eight games in a row with a defensive rating of 118.4. Yikes.
When: 8 p.m. EST
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
As a card-carrying believer in what the Pelicans did this offseason in year one of a rebuild, I must say I’m surprised just how much the team is struggling. They possess a minus-15.4 net rating during their eight-game losing streak and likely view Detroit as just what the doctor ordered. While it is impossible to wave away a series of lopsided losses, their opponents were the Jazz, Clippers, Lakers, Thunder (twice), Mavericks (twice) and the Suns. Even under the best-case scenario you hope you’re able to steal, what, three of those games?
One thing is for certain — a defensive showcase this will not be. These are two teams that can light it up on one end of the court and give all of it back and then some on the other. So who gets hotter or which side can actually turn in a respectable defensive performance?
This game is likely to be one or lost in two phases of the game — rebounding and 3-point shooting. Detroit is a terrible rebounding team outside of Andre Drummond but the good news is they have Drummond. Dre is averaging a career-high 17 rebounds per game and is responsible for Detroit maintaining a top-10 ranking on the boards essentially by himself.
New Orleans ranks 24th in rebounding percentage and is potentially going to be without Derrick Favors who has been dealing with a back injury and personal issues and missed the past 11 games.
The Pelicans will have JJ Redick, however, and he will be a primary source of New Orlean’s offense. He’s hoisting more than seven 3s per game and hitting them at a 46% clip. Redick gets that space thanks to the two-way dynamism of Jrue Holiday who I still contend is one of the most underrated guards in the NBA.
The Pelicans are one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the NBA this season but they have only converted 34% of their attempts during their losing streak. Detroit prioritizes taking away the 3-point line so whichever team wins this battle might come away with the W.
New Orleans plays small with three guard lineups so it’ll be interested who they stick on a catch-and-shoot player like Redick vs. who they put on a non-shooting playmaker like Lonzo Ball. Bruce Brown has had a better showing on defense lately, but he can only guard one guy and it’s probably going to be Holiday.
A couple other players I wanted to highlight are Brandon Ingram — quietly finally, maybe perhaps breaking out a little bit on the offensive end. He’s hitting his shots, has the ball in his hands quite a bit and his length and athleticism on the perimeter could give the Pistons fits all night. It’d be a great night for Tony Snell to deliver a huge defensive performance.
A match-up to watch is going to be among the backup big men. Former New Orleans Pelican Christian Wood against the guy who made him expendable in Jahlil Okafor. Wood has obviously been a monster since solidifying a spot in the rotation in Detroit but Okafor could eat him alive down low. The flip side of that, of course, is that Wood could really carve him up with outside shooting and athletic cuts to the basket.
Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes
Question of the Game
I’m hiding this here because I don’t want to will it into existence. Am I crazy for fearing a monster performance from Jaxson Hayes? Drummond is a beast but sometimes there is something in the air and unheralded big men can go nuclear ...