Tonight at 7:30pm EST. the Pistons will welcome the Knickerbockers to the Palace to play. The Knicks are coming off of several days rest after beating the Grizzlies on Saturday, and the Pistons are on one days rest after beating the Magic on Sunday.
The Knicks are one of the more polarizing teams in basketball heading into the season, with some people thinking they will be very good, others thinking they will be very bad, and everywhere in between. Through just two games so far, none of the questions have been answered. They have had a fairly leaky defense in both of their games, and the offense looked good against Memphis and very bad against the Cavs. Carmelo Anthony is still a remarkably good player although he is not off to a great start, he is passing the ball a lot more these days though and is not nearly as bad defensively as his reputation is. Kristaps Porzingis is the chosen one of New York and is on fire out of the gates, he is tall, athletic, and skilled, which is obviously a very dangerous combination, we will see if he is ready to make a big leap this year or not though. Derrick Rose is a man, so you can assume that he will play hard when he is on the floor, and after a good performance against the Grizzlies he was proclaimed “back” for the 100th time, when in reality he is passing the ball very poorly and scoring with decent efficiency. Courtney Lee is pretty close to the ideal role playing SG who can shoot and defend, Joakim Noah is starting but he doesn't play very much right now so it's hard to say if he is looking better or not. Off the bench, Brandon Jennings is pushing the pace, playing hard on defense, passing the ball wonderfully, and shooting horribly. Kyle O'Quinn can score, Lance Thomas is a nice swiss army knife type, and Justin Holiday looks like a really good shooter and their best bench player. They have a few other guys on their bench who might see a small amount of time, but so far they have mostly gone with a 9 man rotation.
This team, like the last two the Pistons faced, have quite a few new pieces and are clearly still trying to figure out what exactly they are going to be and how to play together. I will say that the Knicks have probably got better players than the Bucks or the Magic do, but this is where the continuity for the Pistons can really give them an advantage.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs. Guarding Melo: Here we go again. DeRozan torched the Pistons, and Giannis was held in check. So the Pistons are batting .500 on guys that are too big for KCP and not centers. Melo is going to be a handful for Morris or Tobias (likely both at various times) and I would not be surprised to see Stanley get some extra time to try and guard him. Melo is not putting up as big of numbers as he has willingly taken on a slightly smaller role, but he is still stupidly good.
Pistons vs. Guarding Kristaps: Exact same problem, and something that could cause issues for the Pistons in this game. The Knicks have two guys who fit the mold of offensive players who give the Pistons problems, Kristaps is not as refined a one on one scorer as Melo of course, but he could still give the Pistons problems with his size. I would not be surprised to see an extra dose of Jon Leuer tonight along with Johnson in order to combat Kristaps.
Andre vs. DOMINATING: Andre usually plays hard, but he has to keep it kicked into that extra gear until Reggie comes back, Andre is the Pistons most important player either way, but now the gap is much larger between him and #2 (although Tobias has played very well so far) and they need him to keep playing excellent on both ends of the floor. He was a one man wrecking crew in every facet of the game against the Bucks, they need that again.
KCP vs. Getting involved on defense: KCP will likely spend most of the game on non-ball handlers like Courtney Lee and Justin Holiday, as such he will be outside of his best attribute. He sometimes has a tendency to be totally taken out of the game defensively when he has this sort of matchup, but in the last game against the Bucks he kept his head on a swivel and got into passing lanes with an abandon. The Pistons need him to find ways to impact the game defensively even when he isn't on a ball handler.
Baynes vs. O'Quinn: O'Quinn has given Baynes some real problems in the past, I don't know if there is just something about his game that Baynes can't handle, but either way. I remember distinctly one game last year where O'Quinn scored like 16 points in 12 minutes on perfect shooting from the field or something like that, and it basically won the game for the Knicks on his own. Lets not have that happen.
Andre vs. Free throws: “knocks on wood.”
Pistons vs. Defensive effort: The Pistons defensive effort was great the last two games, and even the first game against Toronto (when the refs are calling that many fouls and DeMar is hitting those shots, not much you can do) and if they can keep that up for the whole year it will be huge. When they are locked in this is a team with a lot of length and athleticism, being wielded by an excellent coach.
Pistons vs. hitting some 3s: The defensive effort has overshadowed a problem the Pistons have through the first 3 games, the Pistons are shooting just 26% from 3 as a team. Not that it is anything to panic over right now, but when you are a team that shoots a lot of 3s, it helps to hit some of them. And regardless of how good the defense is, the Pistons won't win to many games shooting 3s like that.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre is punking fools in the post again.
The Pistons suddenly catch fire from deep and everything is going in from everyone.
The Knicks are still experiencing major chemistry issues in terms of playing good team offense and defense.
Run for the hills if:
Carmelo and/or Kristaps is hitting everything they look at.
Rose's athleticism is giving Ish serious problems.
Andre gets into foul trouble.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Tobias Harris scores 30 points.
Brandon Jennings does 3 awesome things and 1 really stupid thing.
Melo and Kristaps are efficient but not too crazy.
Pistons ride a huge game from Tobias Harris for a very close win.
What do you think? Can the Pistons contain Melo and Kristaps? We men? Can you assume?
Also don't forget, today is podcast day. It will be up in just a little while, I'll probably be going to record it right when this goes up.