Game Recap/Notes: First Round, Game 2. Raptors 130 - Wizards 119. (Raps lead 2-0)

Another good win in the bag and the Raptors are up 2-0 in pretty convincing fashion. The Wizards are still dangerous and there is some work to be done, but overall it is hard to be displeased with the Raptors start to the playoffs.

 

Box score.

 

Kyle Lowry:

He struggled from the field again, scoring just 13 points on 13 shot equivalents but he once again made up for it with great play in other areas. He tallied up 12 assists against just 3 turnovers, grabbed 7 rebounds, and played high-level defense once again. I think that the previous comparison to it being an almost Rondo-esque game is not that far off, he wasn't impressive scoring the ball but watching the game it was obvious that he was having a significant impact on the game. Going 1-8 from deep is a bit concerning, the Raptors will need him to pick up his scoring if they are going to get where they want to go, but for now he is doing just fine even if he hasn't really found his shot.

 

DeMar DeRozan:

In game 1 he played a fine but not impressive game where he largely took what the defense gave him. Not so tonight. DeRozan poured in 37 points on just 27 shot equivalents (which is awesome) to go along with grabbing 5 boards and dishing 4 assists in 37 minutes of play. He forced the issue against the Wizard defense and proved that even when they overplay him he can go and get his anyways. The only caveat is that for a stretch in the first half the Wizards went from overplaying DeRozan defensively to playing no defense at all so he had his pick of easy looks. That said, given the way he has struggled at times in past playoffs it has to feel great for him to have such a dominating performance like this in a win. Great game from DeRozan.

 

OG Anunoby:

Similar story to game 1 for OG. He did not have that large of an impact with 9 points on 5 shot equivalents with 3 rebounds in 19 minutes, but he finished looks that were created for him which meant that the Wizards had to give him some respect which opened up the floor for other guys to do their thing. He also played better defense this time around I think.

 

Serge Ibaka:

Came down to earth a bit after a great game 1, but he was still solid. 10 points on 11 shots with 9 rebounds, a pair of assists, and 3 blocks is a final line that you are taking most nights. I was especially impressed with the way he asserted himself on defense in this game as his impact went beyond just the blocked shots. Several Wizards players were spooked at times in a big way when they went into the paint and Ibaka was a big reason why. He's made a real difference through two games.

 

Jonas Valanciunas:

Only played 23 minutes, scored 19 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and blocked a pair of shots for a monster +27 in those 23 minutes. I know that this is nothing new for Raptors fans, but I have to wonder why Casey didn't ride JV more against the Wizard small-ball lineups. He has killed those lineups before and did at times in this game. It is a risk admittedly, given how Valanciunas is slow footed even against most opposing centers, but he can get it done on the other end. Regardless, still a really good game from JV.

 

Delon Wright:

Not as big as game 1, but Wright played another really good game. 11 points on as many shot equivalents to go with 3 assists and 3 steals in 27 minutes of work. He fits really well as a secondary playmaker and finisher on the floor and I love the way he competes on the defensive end of the floor.

 

CJ Miles:

Once again, evaluating Miles is pretty easy. Did he hit shots? Well he scored 18 points on just 9 shot equivalents so thats a yes. That means he had a really good game. He is going to hit a cold game at some point, but until then he is so much fun to have around.

 

Jakob Poeltl:

For the second straight game Poeltl struggled to really make a positive impact. He didn't get into space on offense very often and struggled to make the right plays on defense. I'm not sure if it is just the particular skill-set of various Wizard players, something in the scheme, or if he is just off. Either way the Raptors will have to hope for more from Poeltl or potentially try giving his minutes to Bebe.

 

Pascal Siakam:

Played 11 minutes and committed 5 fouls. That's honestly about all you need to know. He did manage 6 points on 5 shots which was nice, but this was not a strong outing for Siakam.

 

Fred VanVleet:

Played very sparingly and didn't look great when he did. I haven't seen if this was pretty much planned to be a short outing, if it was just that he didn't look good/Delon played well, or if he hurt himself again. Perhaps someone can give some more info because my very quick search didn't bring up anything.

 

Powell/Nogueira/Brown:

All played a few sparing minutes, I believe other than Powell they were pretty much in garbage time.

 

General:

Two wins, and got them both in different ways. In game 1 it was a total team effort where the two stars took a back seat, in game 2 DeRozan went off to carry them to victory. The only worrying news from this game is that John Wall is probably going to be in full destroyer mode all series, which means if he can get any help from Bradley Beal (who scored just 9 points!!!!) the Wizards could get back into this series because that guy is stupidly good when he is at full tilt. That said, the problems plaguing the Wizards in the first two games are the same ones that have done so for years now. Long stretches of terrible defense, stretches of no cohesion on offense, and generally being kind of a mess at times. This team is still dangerous, they have a lot of talent, but right now it doesn't look like they are going to pull off a great fix to go on any sort of playoff run.

 

 

What do you think? How about DeRozan? Can the Raptors continue to contain Beal?

 

 

Opponent Scouting: Washing Bullets. Game 2. (Raps lead 1-0)

Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Raptors will be hosting the Washington Wizards in game 2 of the first round. It has been two days since game one so both teams have that much rest.

 

Full series preview.
 

Game 1 Recap.

 

The Them:

The Wizards are the same team as last time out obviously. It will be interesting to see how they adjust following the game 1 loss. Bradley Beal was largely held in check, John Wall struggled to finish at the rim, and the Wizards overplayed Lowry and DeRozan. The Wizards wanted to make the non-all-stars beat them and those guys did just that. The Wizards may double-down on that strategy or they may adjust.

 

Matchups to watch:

  • Raptors vs. Bradley Beal: Beal has been a Raptors killer all season, but they managed to largely keep him under wraps in game 1 as he scored 19 points in 41 minutes. There is a good chance that Beal breaks out in at least one of these games which would be trouble for the Raptors, but if they can repeat game 1's performance then they should be in good shape.

  • John Wall vs. Finishing at the rim: Remember how I said that Wall hasn't quite been himself? All those misses at the rim is the sort of thing I was talking about. A big part of that was good Raptors defense, but if Wall starts to finish better it will change the way this series looks. The important thing is that the Raptors continue to contest at the rim to make sure he doesn't have an easy time, if he starts finishing tough shots then tip your cap.

  • DeRozan vs. Asserting himself a bit: There is nothing abjectly wrong with how DeRozan played in game 1. He largely took what the defense gave him and he ended up with 17 points and 6 assists which is not a bad line. That said, I would like him to force the issue just a bit more and force the Wizards to adjust to him instead of the other way around. Be the hammer not the nail.

  • The other guys vs. Continuing to come through: Serge Ibaka, Delon Wright, OG Anunoby, and CJ Miles all were in double-figures in game 1. If the Wizards stick with their strategy of overplaying Lowry and DeRozan then these other guys will have to keep it up, because if they go cold then the Raptors could be in trouble.

  • Raptors vs. Defensive integrity: I thought that the Raptors had a great defensive disposition all of game 1. The Wizards managed to do stuff at various times, allowing 36 points in the second quarter isn't great, but the Raptors were on their game. If they play defense like that then the Wizards will have a very tough time getting any wins in this series.

  • Raptors vs. Continuing to put the past behind: Getting their first ever game 1 victory was a big step. I think that a sweep would put to bed a lot of the mental worries with this group, so go get it and prove to everyone that this team is different.

 

 

So in conclusion...

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • Bradley Beal is just kind of invisible again.

  • The Wizards are struggling to top 25 points per quarter.

  • DeRozan asserts himself and starts to pile on some points.

 

Run for the hills if:

  • Beal gets loose.

  • Wall starts to finish at the rim.

  • The secondary guys go cold for the Raptors.

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • The Wizards keep with their original strategy.

  • Secondary guys come through for the Raptors again.

  • Bradley Beal has a big game.

  • The Raptors win a close game by overcoming Bradley Beal's many points with another great team effort.

  • Raptors 112 – Wizards 110.

 

 

What do you think? Can the Raptors defend again? Can they contain Bradley Beal?

Game Recap/Notes: Round 1 Game 1: Raptors 114 - Wizards 106. (Raptors lead 1-0)

Hey there, in case you didn't see my preview, I'm Joe. I do this stuff for the Pistons sub all season long and decided to hop on the Raptors bandwagon for the playoffs. The way it works is I will write like a paragraph about each player in review of the past game and then some general notes at the end. Once again, not formal, not super in-depth, but it is something you can read while taking a poop.

 

All year it has looked like this team is different this time. The numbers said so, the eye-test said so. But the reality remained that the Raptors, as a franchise, had never won a game 1 before and that was hanging over stuff. The game was closer than you would've preferred, but the Raptors were strong from just about start to finish and got a very solid win in game 1. Still work to do, but a good start.

 

Box score.

 

Kyle Lowry:

There is an extent to which Lowry had the yips. He only scored 11 points on 10 shot equivalents and was never very eager to shoot the ball, but he did get 9 assists and 3 steals on the night. He also had a couple of brilliant defensive plays, including a great contest of John Wall in transition late in the game.

The other thing that made this game a little different for Lowry is that he hit several buckets late in the game. Both he and DeRozan seemed committed to trying to get teammates involved all game long, which was added too by the Wizards overplaying each of them, as such Lowry was content to be pass-first most of the night while still getting a few big buckets down the stretch. It was almost like a classic Rajon Rondo game in a way, the numbers were not gaudy, but watching the game you just knew that Lowry was having a hugely positive impact. Going forward it would be very nice to see him get going in the scoring column but this was different from past playoff failures.

 

DeMar DeRozan:

17 points on 19 shot equivalents, with 2 boards, and 6 assists against 2 turnovers. As stated above, I'm pretty sure that him and Lowry were pretty committed to getting others involved early in the game and the Wizards regularly overplayed both of them. DeRozan did set a tone right out the gate in the second half with several straight buckets and even though the Raptors didn't go on a run to get a cushion without him on the floor, that was important out of half-time.

DeRozan does have a tough task in this series, where he can really get going to dominate a game often comes as a result of him getting mismatches with guys who simply cannot guard him (see various games where DeRozan has killed my Pistons) but the Wizards have literally got like 6 or 7 guys who have the right combination of length and speed to guard him respectably. That said, DeRozan doesn't impact the game with defense or passing (although he still facilitated very well in this one) like Lowry can so it will be more important for him to get going scoring the ball.

 

OG Anunoby:

A big question mark and X-factor coming into the series. The small forward spot has been an issue for the Raptors for years now, and it wasn't clear how Anunoby would respond to his first playoff action. The answer is: Very good. He finished with 12 points on 9 shots with a couple of rebounds in 22 minutes, including 2-4 from deep. If he continues to consistently finish looks that others create for him like this then the Raptors will be in very good shape, and especially given how much the Wizards overplayed Lowry and DeRozan it was important that he didn't clang too many. One game does not make a sample size, but this game goes a long way in easing some concerns.

The only downside for Anunoby was that the Raptors often tasked him with defending John Wall and that didn't go so well. Wall missed a bunch of shots at the rim (partially because of great help defense) so it didn't burn them too much, but they may want to shelf that idea because he couldn't stay in front of him at all.

 

Serge Ibaka:

The main beneficiary of the attention paid to Lowry and DeRozan was Ibaka, who made the Wizards pay for leaving him open time and time again. Ibaka finished with 23 points on just 13 shot equivalents(!!) and also cleaned the defensive glass to finish with 11 rebounds, he also blocked a pair of shots. Him and Markieff Morris play fairly similar roles and are pretty even in terms of abilities, but Ibaka does take round one in this one. In the same vein as Anunoby, if Ibaka is this sharp then the Raptors starters will be pretty very difficult to stop.

 

Jonas Valanciunas:

In 23 minutes JV had 9 points on 6 shots and 9 rebounds with a pair of assists. When pitted against a small-ball lineup in the first half he didn't do as much damage as I would've preferred but he still made his presence felt on the floor consistently. An important matchup to look at for the rest of this series will be to see how he does against those small-ball lineups for the Wizards, because in case you didn't know, that was not just because of foul trouble. The Wizards run that out occasionally, gaurding Morris or Mike Scott is a tough ask for the lumbering JV but he has killed teams that don't have the size to deal with him in the past. If he could go out and really kill a small-ball group next time out it could change the entire look of the series very quickly. On the other hand, if the small-ball is able to force Valanciunas from the game it would hurt the Raptors.

 

Delon Wright:

This dude has come a long ways. I distictly remember in his rookie season he ended up in the rotation for some reason against the Pistons and he kind of got cooked by Steve Blake. Without getting too far into it, Steve Blake was so bad that Pistons fans still have PTSD from that season. I remember writing after that game that it was just because he was going against some rookie who I'd never heard of that was probably not an NBA player. Now, here that “not an NBA player” who got cooked by the corpse of Steve Blake being a majorly positive piece of a playoff win. 18 points on 11 shot equivalents with 4 assists in 25 minutes. He was on the floor in crunch time and joined Ibaka as the big winner when the Wizards overplayed the two stars. Hitting 3 of his 4 long guns, and also making a few very nice defensive plays. If Ibaka and Wright are not on their games today then there is a good chance that the Raptors are down 1-0, but now the Wizards will have to think long and hard about their defensive strategy of “Make anyone other than Lowry and DeRozan beat us.”

 

CJ Miles:

CJ Miles is around to do one thing: Shoot threes. As such he is the sort of dude who is very easy to evaluate. Did he hit some three pointers? If yes, good game. If no, bad game. So today, did he hit some three pointers? Well he went 4-7 from deep to score 12 points on 19 minutes so thats a yes. Good game for CJ.

 

Pascal Siakam:

In 16 minutes off the bench Siakam provided 9 points on 7 shot equivalents along with 5 rebounds. He did his normal thing where he played super hard on defense to be highly disruptive while also being a similar ball of energy on offense on his way to some buckets. Not a huge impact but he did his job to have a nice game.

 

Jakob Poeltl:

The turtle didn't do a whole lot in this one. In 15 minutes he had 2 points on just 1 shot, grabbed a couple of rebounds and blocked a couple of shots. He also managed to turn the ball over 3 times which wasn't so good. Casey opted to go with Nogueira down the stretch.

 

Lucas Nogueira:

Played all of crunch time, only scored 1 point on a trip to the free throw line and didn't record any other stats but his defensive rotations seemed crisp and the Raptors didn't blow the lead while he was on the floor so I think thats a win.

 

Dwight Powell:

Only played 5 minutes, he missed a shot.

 

General:

I'm not sure who to really give credit for this because I just didn't really see consistently, seemed to be a team effort more than anything else. Regardless, a huge win in this one was that the Raptors contained Bradley Beal who has been a big problem for the Raptors this season to the tune of averaging 28.8/5.5/4.3 per game on great efficiency against them this year. Today Beal scored 19 points on 17 shots with 4 assists, which isn't a bad game by any stretch, but he was largely held in check.

Beyond that, it was good to see the secondary players step up. The Wizards made the Raptors play that way with their defensive scheme so it was important for those guys to come through. The big thing to remember about this series, that a lot of national people (*cough ringer NBA podcast *cough) is that while it is true that this Wizards team is better than your typical 8th seed, the Raptors won 59 games this year and are mostly healthy! The Wizards were mostly healthy last year and had a really good season and won 49 games. So like, yeah, the Wizards will put up a fight here, maybe even win a game or two, but the Raptors are 100% better than the Wizards. If the Raptors lose it will be because they blew it, not because the Wizards were this sleeping giant. So yeah, the games will likely all be like this, close and competitive, but the Raptors should be able to mostly take care of business in the end.

 

 

What do you think? Can the secondary guys keep it up? Can Lowry and DeRozan get going in the scoring column? Can they continue to contain Beal?

 

 

Playoff Opponent Scouting: Washington Bullets. (43-39)

What are you going to be doing?

The exact same thing that I did all season long (other than right at the end for various scheduling reasons) for the Pistons. I'll write a preview before each game and a recap of each game. It is not formal or overly in-depth but it will be something you can read while taking a poop.

 

Why did you choose the Raptors?

The Raptors have grown on me the last few years. Kyle Lowry is awesome, so is DeRozan, no one believes in them, (something Detroit fans 100% connect with) they are really good, and got really good without tanking. Due to the fact that no one believes in them I can also root for a really good team that has a real chance to win the title while still feeling like I'm rooting for the underdog.

 

You're a Pistons fan why should we trust your opinions?

I watch a ton of basketball all season long. Like, an unhealthy amount. That said, I've probably watched like 20(ish) Raptors games in their entirety. Which is probably a lot less than you have, to counter this I am generally pretty up front with things that I am unsure of. If I say something wrong it is an honest mistake, so just as an example, I'm not sure exactly how good Serge Ibaka is on defense anymore. He clearly isn't the force he once was but is still a plus, I'm just not sure how big of a plus. Anyways, if I say something wrong then tell me I won't be offended. Anyways, on with the preview. This is for the entire series so it will be longer than the game to game stuff. Glad to be aboard.

 

The Them:

The Washington Wizards are a confounding team that has the talent to be a legit contender but even without the injuries that have plagued them over the last few years they have not quite been able to get over that hump. John Wall is a brilliant point guard who is a terror on the break, finds open shooters, can get to the rim almost at will, and is one of the more destructive defensive point guards to ever live when he is locked in. Bradley Beal is not as good as Wall (when both are at 100%) but has been the Wizards' best player this season, he is a silky-smooth shooter who can score from just about anywhere on the court, while also being a good enough athlete to take most guys off the dribble and get to the rim to finish with confidence and authority. Beal is also an underrated defender, he isn't a stopper but he is very good.

Beyond the top two guys, the Wizards have a really good starting lineup that fits very well together. Otto Porter is paid more than he should be, but is one of the best spot up guys in the NBA (44.1% from deep, 85th percentile per synergy on really high volume as a spot up guy) who also has surprising shot creation ability when called upon. He is a guy who simply doesn't miss very often despite being able to finish looks from a variety of spots, Porter is not a great defender but he is long, strong, and tries hard. Markieff Morris is not as good off-ball and better with the ball but overall has a similar impact as Porter. He is a solid spot-up guy (36.7% from deep) and can also finish looks inside, the catch is that he is a really good isolation scorer when asked to be so. Per Synergy he ranks in the 69th percentile (nice) scoring out of isolations and 52nd in post ups, with pretty high volume in both categories. If he is able to get consistent mismatches he can suddenly become a huge problem. Marcin Gortat rounds out the starting lineup and is a solid jack of all trades type, he has good hands and soft touch around the rim, can hit short-range jumpers, sets good screens, and is generally in the right place on defense. It is worth mentioning that a lot of the numbers show that he has started to fall off a bit with his age this season and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the playoffs.

Off the bench Kelly Oubre has had a really good season, he is a terror of bouncy limbs on defense and has some off the dribble ability on offense and shot 34% from deep although he finished the year really badly on offense (more on that later). Mike Scott has also revived his career as a skilled power forward and occasional small-ball center off the bench. He is shooting 40.5% from deep, ranking in the 91st percentile as a spot-up player, and can abuse mismatches in isolations. He ranks in the 87th percentile on post-ups and 97th percentile on isolations. Neither are especially high-volume but it is real. Tomas Satoransky has had a good season as well, really breaking out while John Wall was hurt, he is huge for a point guard and has the right skills to play as a wing when they want him to. He isn't a great athlete but is good enough to switch across multiple positions, can shoot, and handle the ball. It isn't clear exactly how good he is, but he is a solid player.

After that it is a bit grim for the Wizards. Tim Frazier, who was supposed to stabilize the backup point guard spot, has been terrible, Ian Mahinmi has shown some signs of life down the stretch but is still very bad while being paid a ton of money, Jodie Meeks can't really shoot anymore, Ramon Sessions doesn't even play, Jason Smith missed a ton of time this year and wasn't good when he did play.

This is a team with a ton of talent, but injuries and underachieving has been a problem this season. Despite the fact that their bench is bolstered a bit this season, their strength still lies in a starting lineup that is one of the stronger in the NBA and the reality is that they just have not managed to get going together all season. This is a team that could put it together at the right time and become dangerous, but as they have been all season they are nothing remarkable.

 

Matchups to watch:

  • Will the real John Wall please stand up: He's only played 41 games this season, but even when he has played he has not been quite right. This is coming from someone who thinks very highly of John Wall, his true shooting percentage is just 51.5% (which isn't way out of line for his career admittedly) he's getting a few less free throws, and taking more long-twos (than last year). Most importantly, he has not been the same destroyer of worlds on defense that he often is. If Wall comes out and is the store-brand version of himself that he's been this year then the Wizards should pose little threat, if Wall is all the way healthy and ready to go then the Wizards could become dangerous.

  • Raptors vs. Beating old demons: The narrative of the Raptors as playoff chokers is overstated, but there is some truth to it in that they have certainly not over-performed. There are mountains of data to suggest that this team is different, but it has to be in the back of some players minds. Taking care of business in the first round would go a long ways I think.

  • DeRozan vs. Beal: Assuming that Wall is not going to be 100%, these are probably the best player for each team and they will spend a lot of the series matched up with each other. They are each excellent players in different ways. In a vaccume DeRozan is better, but it is close enough that over a series Beal could certainly go toe to toe. If the Wizards want to keep in this they will need Beal to be on his game and hope that DeRozan is a bit off.

  • Lowry vs. Wall: Regardless of the level of play Wall is at, this will also be a pivotal matchup. They go about it in very different ways but both a brilliant point guards. Lowry has at times had problems with Wall's size and speed in the past, but if Wall is not at 100% and gets lazy chasing Lowry around the court then this could turn sharply in favor of the Raptors behind a flurry of open threes.

  • Health: Otto Porter and Mike Scott are both questionable for the Wizards, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are both uncertain for the Raptors. My guess is these guys play because its the playoffs, but they may not be totally ready. Even though these are not the stars, each guy plays an important role for their team and it could impact that series in a big way.

  • Gortat vs. Valanciunas: Valanciunas has had some very good moments in the playoffs as his size and tenacity can totally change the course of a game. In theory, Gortat is the sort of strong and fundamentally sound player to keep him in check but he has not been the same guy this season. If Gortat really does show some signs of age and JV can take him to task this could become a one-sided series very quickly.

  • Raptors bench vs. Making the most of their time: Benches play less in the playoffs, but it remains a huge strength for the Raptors and the most obvious advantage over the Wizards. Given the lower time they will play, it will be important for the Raptors bench to be on their game to take advantage of every moment they get to ravage the Wizards second unit.

  • Kelly Oubre vs. Shooting: Oubre has had a nice season which built on a pretty strong finish to last year, but his offense has kind of fallen off a cliff. From the start of February to the end of the season he shot 34.8% from the field and 27% from deep.

  • Serge Ibaka vs. Markieff Morris: They are pretty close in terms of abilities so I think they will mostly cancel each other out, but they are 100% going to get in at least 2 scuffles.
     

So in conclusion...

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • John Wall looks kind of slow and tired, and Kyle Lowry is bombing open threes as a result.

  • This Raptors team is different, past demons are gone.

  • Playoff Jonas Valanciunas is a real thing and it turns another series.

 

Run for the hills if:

  • The trash-bros are a real thing and this Raptors group is never going to get over their playoff jitters.

  • John Wall is all the way back and in full destroyer mode.

  • Bradley Beal plays his best basketball while DeRozan is a bit off to give the Wizards an edge.

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • Valanciunas turns at least one game in favor of the Raptors against a small-ball Wizards lineup.

  • DeMar DeRozan has the best playoff series of his career.

  • John Wall is in good shape but not quite there. He does manage to keep Lowry from doing too much though.

  • The Raptors conquer their demons, prove that this team is different and also a lot better than the past iterations, and while the games are more competitive, this series ends up being a fairly run-of-the-mill 1 vs. 8.

  • Raptors in 5.

 

 

What do you think? Will John Wall be himself? Can the trash-bros conquer their demons?

Opponent Scouting: Toronto Raptors. (58-22)

Today at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will play their last home game of the season against the Toronto Raptors. The Pistons are on the second night of a back to back after losing the the Grizzlies yesterday and the Raptors are also on the second of a back to back after beating the Magic yesterday.

 

The Them:

The Raptors are the best team in the East, and by pretty much any measure no worse than the 3rd best team in all of basketball. They have already clinched the top seed in the East so it is not clear exactly how many of their guys they will actually play. Expect some, but it is not unlikely that some starters will be out and the ones who play will not play major minutes.

They are of course led by their superstar backcourt. DeMar DeRozan should be getting real MVP consideration, Kyle Lowry has less gaudy numbers than he has in the past but he is still a great two-way point guard and there is a very strong argument that he is the best point guard this side of the Mississippi. Beyond those two they have a bunch of really good players, Serge Ibaka doesn't do anything spectacular on offense but is still quite good while also being a plus defender. Jonas Valanciunas is still not really a plus defender but he is a very good rebounder and can score inside. Fred VaVleet is a killer 6th man who can do a bit of everything, Pascal Siakam is a great energy guy, so is Jakob Poeltl. OG Anunoby looks like a steal as a 3 and D rookie. Delon Wright is also a pretty good all-around bench player.

 

 

Matchups to watch:

  • Ellenson vs. Being good: Now that the option of a moral victory by finishing .500 is gone it truthfully doesn't matter at all if the Pistons win or not. One of the things that can matter is Henry Ellenson continuing to look passable. He has a good chance to double his minutes total from last year and if he does play the last couple of games we will have the largest continuous sample we have for him. His defense is bad but not a total loss, and his offense has been quite good over this stretch. Over the last 8 games Ellenson is scoring 7.1 points, grabbing 2.5 rebounds, and dishing .8 assists in 13.1 minutes per game. He is shooting 44% from the field and 40% from deep. Per 36 minutes thats 19.6 points, 6.9 rebounds (nice), and 2.1 assists. Big thing to watch.

  • Luke Kennard vs. Being aggressive: He looked better in the last game although he may have had his worst defensive game all season. Regardless, even though there is less need to see him succeed like there is with Ellenson, it would still be good to see him thrive in the last two games as a starter.

  • Pistons vs. Giving a crap: There just wasn't any fight in the team yesterday, and I get it. But the Pistons have to show something more than they did last time out.

 

So in conclusion...

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • The caucasian splash brothers are going to be a real thing going forward.

  • The Pistons are not letting the Raptors to have a layup line.

  • The Pistons are shooting a ton of three-pointers again.

 

Run for the hills if:

  • It is a layup line for the Raptors.

  • The Pistons can't get up to give any effort in the last home game.

  • The season is essentially over anyways so you don't really need to run for the hills.

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • Yeah I'm not making any predictions after the last game lol.

 

 

Opponent Scouting: Memphis Grizzlies (21-58)

Where were you?

So I got credentialed to go to Drive games so that took a lot of time, then the whole Zeke Upshaw thing happened and I decided to step back for a bit. I was planning on returning full time last week but I went and house-sat for someone and their internet was wonky and wouldn't let me connect so here we are. Only three games left but better late than never.

 

Today at 3:30pm EST the Pistons will be on the road to play against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are terrible and in full tank mode. Their starting lineup last time out was: MarShon Brooks, Dillon Brooks, Ivan Rabb, Ben McLemore, and Kobi Simmons. I am a basketball junkie and I know things about like 3 or 4 of the guys in their rotation right now. They are terrible. Their year-long stat placements don't even matter given how far they have gone into the tank.

 

Matchups to watch:

  • Luke Kennard vs. Being aggressive: After the last game SVG said that Kennard didn't seem to really want to get into the game and it is hard to disagree with that much. Kennard has never lacked confidence but he has occasionally been a bit unsure of when to attack and when not to. He is starting the last 3 games and it would be great to see him have some really good games.

  • Pistons vs. Not playing down: Look, I get it. The Pistons are out of the playoffs, they are playing 2 teams trying to lose and one who will likely be resting everyone in their last three games. But there has to be some pride here, and there would be value to finishing strong and at .500 this season.

  • Henry Ellenson vs. Keeping it up: Getting some playing time down the stretch and Ellenson has looked, well, fine. He has played so little in real NBA minutes that it is hard to judge him, and there is a chance he will have a real role next season. If he can play well in the last three games it would go a long ways towards building confidence for himself and the team in his ability to potentially fill a real role next year.

  • Reggie Jackson vs. Building: Keep filling it up. Pretty much that simple to be honest. Get confidence, keep getting the rust off and prepping for a full and proper offseason to come back even better next year.

 

 

So in conclusion...

 

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • Henry Ellenson is scoring many points.

  • Luke Kennard is scoring many points.

  • The Pistons actually look engaged and stomp on the Grizzlies from the outset.

 

Run for the hills if:

  • The Pistons look disinterested.

  • The Grizzlies are even close in the second half.

  • Kennard looks out of place again.

 

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • Andre Drummond has a big game.

  • Luke Kennard bounces back.

  • The Pistons win easily.

  • Pistons 122 – Grizzlies 90.

 

What do you think? Can Kennard bounce back? Can Ellenson keep looking like a viable NBA player?