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Pistons vs Hornets preview: Detroit kicks off second half in Charlotte

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Saben Lee takes Killian Hayes’ place in the battle of the rookie point guards.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Detroit Pistons Eric Bronson-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off the seven day All-Star break, the Detroit Pistons hit the road to begin the second half of the season against the Charlotte Hornets. The Pistons sputtered their way to the break, losing four of their last five. The Hornets, on the other hand, have alternated between wins and losses in eleven consecutive games. Both teams look to start new, more successful trends on Thursday night.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. Eastern
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
Watch: FOX Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
Odds: Pistons +4.5

Analysis

Detroit’s backcourt and wings will face an immediate test defensively against a talented Charlotte group. Terry Rozier is having a career year in his second season with the Hornets, putting up scorching-hot numbers from deep on the way to an ultra-efficient first half.

Rookie LaMelo Ball has more than lived up to his pre-draft hype, providing a dynamic passing option next to Rozier and developing budding chemistry with Flint native Miles Bridges above the rim. Ball will undoubtedly be a focus of the Pistons’ defensive game plan. If they can’t limit him at the point of attack, it will be a long night for Detroit.

Much of that responsibility will likely fall on newly-acquired starting point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. The former New York Knick has been extremely active pressuring lead ball handlers. That will need to continue against Ball, but the aggressiveness needs to be calculated. Gambling against Ball can lead to a lot of advantages for the Charlotte offense.

Defensively, the Hornets were decidedly average in the first half, ranking 17th in the league. They do, however, struggle mightily in terms of opponents’ effective field-goal percentage where they rank 28th.

That is undoubtedly welcome news for a Pistons offense that has struggled to put the ball in the basket consistently. Detroit has gone smaller since Blake Griffin’s absence, though, which has certainly benefited their offensive spacing. To win the first game of the second half, they will need to take advantage of a sometimes easy to score on Hornets’ defense.

The most obvious form that offense can take for Detroit is in Jerami Grant. The Pistons leading scorer struggled with his shooting prior to the break, which came at the perfect time for him. A team who gives up high-efficiency shots could be a great transition back to basketball for Grant.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (10-26):

Dennis Smith Jr., Svi Mykhailiuk, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee

Charlotte Hornets (17-18):

Terry Rozier, LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, Cody Zeller

Question of the Game

How many triple-doubles do the Pistons tally?