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Pistons vs. Cavs preview: Another game where good players return against the Pistons

After playing well the last few weeks without Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, Garland returns to the Cavaliers lineup a couple days after Mobley.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Detroit Pistons David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

When Darius Garland and Evan Mobley went down with long-term injuries within a few weeks of each other, many people thought the Cavs’ season was over. Instead, they rattled off a solid 2nd half of December and a solid January and find themselves in the thick of the playoff race.

They will now have a full healthy team and will be squaring off against a now mostly fully healthy Pistons team. The previous two matchups between these teams were close wins for the Cavaliers, but the Pistons have been playing a lot better the last couple weeks since trading for Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari.

Maybe the re-integration of Garland and Mobley will have some roadblocks that the Pistons can take advantage of.

Game Vitals

Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, OH
When: Wednesday, January 31 at 7 pm EST
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Cavaliers (-10.5)


There has been a bit of controversy in Pistons-land after a shocking 16-point victory over the West-leading Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday without Cade Cunningham. That came a day after losing to the Washington Wizards with Cade and a 100 percent healthy Pistons’ roster for the first time this season. As insane as it is, there are some rumblings about how the Pistons play with and without Cade and whether they are better without him.

It isn’t just this one game, as the Pistons did start to play better after acquiring Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari from the Washington Wizards, which came while Cade was out with an injury. Therefore, the only sample size fans have is the one game Cade has played with the “new look” Pistons.

The reality of the situation is somewhere in between the two sides. The Pistons are not a worse team with Cade Cunningham, I don’t think, but they play differently without him, and they may want to try to find ways to play that way while he is playing. This means more on-ball reps for Jaden Ivey and probably more staggering of the two players to allow both to play as the primary ball-handlers.

This game could be a good game to give it a try as the Cavaliers’ backcourt defense with Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell is not the best. But it would also involve Monty Williams making an actual adjustment, which he has not done a ton of this season.

The Cavaliers were on a bit of a roll after losing Garland and Evan Mobley, as I mentioned above. It was something not a lot of people saw coming, as they enter this game 10-2 in the month of January with only Monday’s win over the Clippers featuring Evan Mobley.

Darius Garland is set to return tonight from his broken jaw, so we will see a full-strength Cavaliers team. This is the perfect game for them to ease their players back into things against a poor defensive team that also shoots themselves in the foot a lot.

The biggest reason for the Pistons’ upset of the Thunder on Sunday was because they took care of the ball, which does not happen as much when the fantastic, but turnover-prone Cunningham is playing. Although Garland and Mitchell are not great defensively, both players have quick hands and are good at generating steals, so that is something the Pistons will have to be careful of.

With Isaiah Stewart likely out with an ankle injury, we might be saved from Monty Williams forcing the big starting frontcourt to matchup with Mobley and Allen. The Pistons lack of size without Stewart may hurt them on the glass, but they could start Ausar Thompson to alleviate some of those concerns. The spacing is kind of a mess, but it is probably a better option than starting Kevin Knox and getting killed on the glass.

As is the case when facing any team that didn’t just recently trade a player, this will be a tough game for the Pistons to win.


Detroit Pistons (6-40): Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ausar Thompson, Jalen Duren

Cleveland Cavaliers (28-16): Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Max Struss, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

Question of the Day

Do you expect the Pistons to do anything significant during next week’s trade deadline?