The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the bottom-four teams in the league at 15-47, but have been frisky of late, winning three of their last four games before this one. Granted, those are wins against the Phoenix Suns, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the New York Knicks - all of them tanking teams - but Cleveland has more closely resembled an actual basketball team since the return of their best player, Kevin Love. Funny how that works.
After the month they’ve had, racing back into playoff position, the Detroit Pistons cannot afford a letdown against a losing team. All the wins count the same, and Detroit needs every win to make it into the playoffs.
When: March 2, 2019, 5 p.m. ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
Dwane Casey talked about how the Pistons can’t afford to rest on their laurels in this one during practice yesterday:
Everybody in this league is playing for something, whether it’s your next contract or pride. I don’t know what the philosophical approach the (Cavs) organization has but those 15 young men in uniform are playing for something: Their next team, next contract or pride. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot and we have to come out (better).
The Cavs’ best shot has been better lately: Since Kevin Love came back against the Knicks on February 11, the Cavs have scored 107, 139 (in triple overtime), 111, 112, 110, and 125 points - a far cry from the low-90’s and high-80’s scores that dot their BBall-Reference game log for this season.
Love isn’t playing tonight (rest), though.
According to last night’s injury report, #Cavaliers will rest Kevin Love against #Pistons today. Ante Zizic, Tristan Thompson, John Henson all still out. JR Smith still out there somewhere in the world and will not play. No reports yet from DET— Matt Schoch (@Matt_Schoch_) March 2, 2019
However, that only means its even more imperative that the Pistons come out with intensity and aggression on the defensive side of the ball. In particular, Bruce Brown Jr. coming out and putting the clamps down on turnover-prone rookie point guard Collin Sexton will help Detroit dictate the outcome of this game.
Sexton is putting up good counting stats (15/3/3) for a rookie, but at 30 minutes a night and on low, low efficiency (eFG percentage of 44.6 percent, True Shooting percentage of 48.9 percent). He also has almost as many turnovers (135) as assists (178). As a young point guard, Sexton has a lot of growing yet to come in his career, but as of right now, he is not a good NBA player, and the Pistons need to exploit that.
On offense, I’d like to see the Pistons either give Blake Griffin a similar rest day, or make a concerted effort to get him some easy baskets. Blake’s been productive, scoring-wise, since the All-Star break, so you could be forgiven for not noticing, but he’s shooting under 40 percent from the floor and getting “only” five free-throw attempts per game. The renewed play of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond has diversified the Pistons offense, taking pressure off of Blake, but the Pistons still could use him as a roller more and get him more easy looks at the rim, like this one:
This is the first game of a back-to-back for Detroit, with the second game a home date with Toronto, so by appearances, it’d be a good time to rest Blake, but I don’t coach this team (fortunately for all of us).
Lastly: Love, Ante Zizic, Tristan Thompson, and John Henson all being out leaves the Cavs with only Larry Nance Jr., Channing Frye, and Marquese Chriss at the big spots. Andre Drummond should feast against that frontcourt.
Detroit Pistons (29-31):
Reggie Jackson, Wayne Ellington, Bruce Brown Jr., Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Cleveland Cavaliers (15-47):
Collin Sexton, Brandon Knight, David Nwaba, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr.
Detroit 115, Cleveland 104