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Pistons vs. Clippers preview: Musical chairs among big men for Detroit an interesting wrinkle as LA comes to town

Clippers enter as on of the NBA’s hottest teams

Los Angeles Clippers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers have won six of their previous seven games and have the second best net rating in the NBA in that span, trailing only the scorching-hot New York Knicks. The Clippers are as healthy as they’ve been all year, and that is certainly helping them find their groove. Kawhi Leonard once again looks like a borderline MVP candidate, James Harden looks like he is no longer trying to force his way out of a team, and Paul George looks like Paul George always looks — a really good two-way player.

All that is to say even as I’ve been impressed with how the Detroit Pistons have played recently, I don’t have any illusions that this game will be especially competitive. Now, they could be locked in as much as they were against the Thunder and surprise LA, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. But that doesn’t mean this game won’t be of interest for Pistons fans.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit


Let’s talk turnovers. They can’t happen. Not if the Pistons hope to be competitive. Any time the Pistons are able to curb their turnovers, they have a chance to stay in the game. Detroit has only six wins this season — all but an oddity against the Hornets (23) saw the Pistons commit 15 or fewer turnovers (9, 11, 11, 15, 15). Detroit has 19 double-digit losses this season, and only five featured Detroit committing fewer than 14 turnovers. There’s your sweet spot.

In Detroit’s 128-121 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pistons committing 17 turnovers. Many of them were truly heinous. Zero of them were courtesy of Cade Cunningham, Detroit’s most turnover-prone player. If the Pistons were able to cut out three, four, five of those miscues, they could have stolen the game from a very good Cavs team.

Even in a loss, though, the Pistons’ rotation should be an intriguing subplot in this movie. Isaiah Stewart is injured with an ankle sprain. Mike Muscala is out with a concussion. So what will Monty do at power forward and center tonight?

The Pistons seem to prefer shooters off the bench behind Jalen Duren, so that argues that Danilo Gallinari will get plenty of opportunities while the two bigs are out. At power forward, Williams has tended to lean on Kevin Knox to start the game, and it could also open up some more minutes for Ausar Thompson at forward if they think they can get by with extended run from either the rookie or veteran Bojan Bogdanovic at power forward.

It helps that the center relies on Daniel Theis as a backup center at the moment, and the reserve unit just gets smaller from there. The mainstays are Norm Powell (6-foot-3), Russell Westbrook (6-foot-4), Brandon Boston (6-foot-7), and Amir Coffey (6-foot-7).

That could allow Detroit to survive at center with Danilo, and enable the Pistons to play more three-guard lineups with Cade, Jaden Ivey, Alec Burks, and Marcus Sasser in the three-guard rotation.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (6-41)

Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Kevin Knox, Jalen Duren

Los Angeles Clippers (31-15)

James Harden, Terance Mann, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Mason Plumlee

Question of the Game

It’s less than a week from the NBA trade deadline. Who makes a big move? Do the Pistons do anything?