The Detroit Pistons are still losing, and I’m not sure they know how to stop it. Or, maybe they do know how to make it stop, but they don’t really have the talent to pull it off. Ironically, a team that has been a running joke for years related to its predilection for centers doesn’t really have any centers to play. Jalen Duren is out with a sprained ankle, Marvin Bagley is out with back spasms, and Isaiah Stewart is cosplaying as a power forward. That leaves Detroit with ... James Wiseman. Maybe him playing 20 minutes is the missing ingredient this team needed to break this franchise-record 19-game losing streak. They will face the formidable, offensively anyway, Indiana Pacers at home at Little Caesars Arena.
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit Extra
Odds: Pistons +7
The Pacers are coming off a runner-up showing in the league’s inaugural In-Season Tournament, falling 123-109 to the Los Angeles Lakers in Las Vegas. The Pacers couldn’t contain Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Austin Reaves, who combined for 93 points in that game. Luckily for Indiana, the Pistons don’t have a LeBron or a Davis or even a Reaves. They have Cade Cunningham, Bojan Bogdanovic, and a whole lot of question marks.
The Pistons need to hope that there is a bit of a post-tournament hangover for the Pacers. They beat Philly, Boston, and Milwaukee, all Eastern Conference powers, to make it to the final game and a chance at a half-million-dollar prize per player. Now, they are back to boring old reality playing a Detroit team they are clearly superior than. Perhaps they mentally simply don’t show up for the game.
Even if that happens, Detroit will need actually to lock in on both ends to take advantage. Head coach Monty Williams is saying all the right things to the media and doing none of them in the actual games. Recently, he’s talked about the need to get Jaden Ivey more involved in the offense, he’s talked about the need to shorten up his 11-man rotation, and after Detroit’s blowout loss to Orlando, he talked about the need to play Ausar Thompson more in the pick-and-roll as a vertical threat than having him camp out at the 3-point line to take (and miss) open 3-pointers.
It’d be great if he actually does any of that, finally. His big man usage will be interesting. The injuries to Duren and Bagley will either force him to put several players in what has seemed from the outside like their most optimal positions — Isaiah Stewart at center, Bogdanovic and Thompson at the two forward spots — or he could play two bigs — James Wiseman and Isaiah Stewart in the starting lineup, and force Stew to play big minutes rotating to back up center whenever Wiseman needs off the floor.
For his part, Cunningham could be poised for a big offensive showing. The Pacers are a good team, full stop. But they also have the 28th-ranked defense in the NBA. They surrender 124 points per game, including a league-high 63 points in the paint. They also foul opponents at a league-high rate. Cunningham scored 31 points against the Pacers (in a blowout loss, of course). But he did get to the line nine times. Cade has been shooting less and is seeing dividends in his efficiency. He’s also upped his field goal percentage on drives from 45% on the season to nearly 55% in his past five games, and his field goal percentage within 5 feet of the rim is 65% over the same span.
If this can be THE Cade Cunningham game, it can be a much-needed Pistons victory.
Detroit Pistons (2-20)
Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Ausar Thompson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart
Indiana Pacers (12-8)
Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Bruce Brown, Obi Toppin, Myles Turner
Question of the Game
What is James Wisemans’ stat line at the end of the game?