Tonight at 7:30pm EST. The Pistons will be welcoming the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Palace for one game back from the road trip before going off again. The Pistons are on one nights rest after beating the Nuggets on Saturday night, and the Thunder are on the 2nd night of a back to back after losing at the buzzer to Orlando last night.
The Russell Westbrook show has pretty much been everything that it was advertised to be. Westbrook is averaging 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists per game, on an absurd 41% usage rate. He is keeping the Thunder afloat mostly single handedly. Beyond him, Victor Oladipo has found his game after a rough start, scoring just under 16 points on fairly efficient scoring, including 40% from 3, although he is not passing the ball hardly at all. Andre Roberson is a long and strong defender on the wing, and he is mostly non-threatening on offense but for now he has found 37% from 3 which will be huge for the Thunder if he keeps that up all season. Domantas Sabonis has surprised by taking the starting PF role, he is shooting an absurd (and unsustainable) 48% from 3, and is playing better defense than I think most people expected. Steven Adams rounds out the starting lineup at center as the defensive anchor on one end, and a rim running pick and roll guy on offense, although he is starting to get some touches in the post and has looked pretty good on them. Enes Kanter is the first guy off the bench, he still is miserable on defense but he can score and he does it really effectively, he is also a monster on the glass. Jerami Grant is a good athlete who can make plays on both ends but lacks having much polish, Joffrey Lauvergne is another big who is shooting the ball surprisingly well out of the game, Semaj Christon is filling in at backup PG until Payne comes back, and he is mostly unremarkable. Kyle Singler is dead, and Alex Abrines is struggling a bit out of the gate as well.
This is a team that can win games, but they do it in ugly ways. The play defense like crazy and pray that Westbrook can keep their offense afloat. When Westbrook leaves the floor, the offense gets nearly unwatchable. So far, calling the Thunder the Westbrook show is not inaccurate.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs. Stopping Westbrook: Once again, Westbrook is the Thunder offense. If the Pistons can sort of keep him in check then the Thunder will almost certainly lose, if he goes off then the Pistons may be in trouble. It would be nice to let KCP go after Westbrook since Oladipo shouldn't be too big for Ish to take, but even if it is mostly Ish, they need to find a way to slow him down.
Drummond vs. Adams: They are different players, but Adams is a really good player who just signed a big extension. Adams has both the size and athleticism to hang with Drummond, so Andre will have to be locked in on both ends, HOWEVA, Andre should still have an advantage. Andre will also likely be busy trying to protect the rim against fanatical Westbrook drives.
Baynes vs. Kanter: Enes Kanter mainly lives off of dominating backup bigs who have no chance to guard him offensively, and are not good enough to do much to him on defense. Aron Baynes fits the bill there. Kanter has the potential to swing a game in just a few minutes with a string of buckets and offensive rebounds. Baynes will have to be on his game.
Mobias vs. Good again: Mobias had a rough go of it for a few games there, they seemed to get back on track against Denver. Until Reggie gets back the Pistons need them to continue to step up and get the tough buckets for the offense.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
KCP is swallowing Westbrook up.
Andre has a upper hand on Adams.
Mobias keeps on rolling.
Run for the hills if:
Kanter scores 10 points on 5 trips for a stretch.
Westbrook messes around and gets a triple double.
Ish goes back to stupid Ish.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Mobias scores 40 points between them.
KCP has a big game with a combination of fast break points and hot shooting.
Enes Kanter destroys Baynes.
The Pistons get big games from Mobias and KCP, and everyone else just sort of does their part and the Pistons win comfortably.
What do you think? Can the Pistons contain Westbrook? Will Baynes survive?