Tonight the Pistons welcome the Brooklyn Nets to the Palace to play at 7:30EST. The Nets are coming in on the second night of a back to back following a loss to the Magic last night in Brooklyn (a game that I watched. And it was just as horrible as you might imagine it was.) and the Pistons have had 2 days of rest and will be going for their 3rd straight win.
Previously against the Nets.(I don't want to talk about it.)
The Them: The Nets are a bad team. Not Sixers bad, but they are not very good. And after losing Jarrett Jack to injury they are a bit worse. Brook Lopez is still holding things down at center and he is legitimately very good, scoring nearly 20ppg on fairly efficient shooting, he is also not totally useless on defense due to his sheer size. Thaddeus Young is pretty indisputably their 2nd best player at this point, scoring just under 16ppg at a solid clip (even though he can't really shoot.). Beyond that, the outlook is bleak for the Nets. Joe Johnson has fallen off of a cliff and is scoring just 11ppg on poor shooting, and also can't really defend anyone. (Side rant here. I wish more people appreciated Joe Johnson. I have an irrational love of Joe Johnson, I even bought his Jersey because it was super cheap when it looked like he was going to get traded. I'm not kidding. I love iso Joe. I think he is hugely under appreciated among fans at this point. It is not his fault he got way overpaid. This guy was a REALLY good player for a long time. And I'm still holding out hope he is just in a slump right now. He has put up a lot of really good numbers on teams that were not bad, and even won several playoff series. He does not deserve top tier recognition, but I think he should be solidly in the 2nd tier. Sorry, rant over.) Shane Larkin is now the starting PG and has actually looked pretty good and (along with Thad Young) give a small glimmer of hope for the future in Brooklyn, but he is super unproven. Bojan Bogdanovic is not bad, but he is not playing all that well. Bargs is probably still hurt (I think) and beyond that. There is just not much here. (That's right, Andrea Bargnani counts as not part of the "yuck" part of this team.) Wayne Ellington, Thomas Robinson, Donald Sloan all are like, just not that good. The Nets have a couple of good players in Young and Lopez, but their only hope beyond that is that Joe Johnson wakes up and plays well and/or Shane Larkin can keep his efficiency up while playing much larger minutes in place of Jarret Jack. (neither of which are especially likely I don't think.) But for now, this team is just not very good, their OffRtg. is just 97.8 which is very bad. And their DefRtg. is 104.5 which is equally as bad. This team is basically the Pistons the past, almost decade. They have a couple useful players, but not much chemistry, no identity, and no clear path to being good again. (The Nets don't have any picks for a while but being in Brooklyn gives them a free agency advantage that Detroit does not have, although I will concede that the future looks bleaker for the Nets than it did for the Pistons at any time during the dark ages.)
Matchups to watch:
- Andre vs. Playing: This is the biggest thing and it is not even close. Andre is listed as questionable for tonights game following a non-call flagrant foul on Amir Johnson where Andre got his leg rolled up on. (To be clear, it should have been a flagrant 1. Not 2. It was not malicious and Amir did not intend to hurt Drummond. But he literally tackled him. That is not a basketball play, the definition of Flagrant 1 is doing something that is not malicious but is not "a basketball play.") Admittedly it might not matter because the Nets are bad, but Andre is the best player on this team and it is not even that close. There has been some talk of how "it will be interesting to see how the team plays without him" and while I suppose it will be interesting, we do not want to see it. If this were to become any sort of long term/serious injury then the Pistons season will almost certainly be over. Regardless, if he does not play then the Pistons become a lot worse. (To be clear, if there is a chance he could re-injure it to make it worse he should sit out. I'm just making sure ya'll know. Andre being out for any extended time would be a disaster for the Pistons.)
- Reggie vs. Taking Over: If Andre does indeed miss this game, then a lot of pressure falls on Reggie Jackson. The Nets are a bad defensive team and has no one to match up with him so it should not be so bad, so he should be able to do it. But he is also a bit banged up. Regardless, if Andre misses a couple games here, Reggie will have to really be aggressive and essentially hope that he is hot. The driving lanes will be tighter, the shooters will be less open, and there will be far less coverage to make up for defensive mistakes without Andre on the floor. Reggie will have to be on top of his game.
- Aron Baynes vs. Have a Good Game: Goes hand in hand with Reggie here. Baynes is not a terrible player. I absolutely believe that he is capable of playing well enough (provided it is paired with Reggie playing well) to keep the Pistons afloat for a game or 2 while Andre gets healthy. But I also absolutely believe that he is not good enough to do that every night. He has nights where it just is not really working for him. He will have a tall order in dealing with Brook Lopez tonight, but I think he could survive there. Essentially, just like Reggie, the Pistons have to hope that he is on his game. I would like to see SVG get a little bit more creative with utilizing Baynes Jumper playing with the starters though.
- Pistons vs. Gaurding Thad Young: Last time these teams met, Ersan was hopeless to stop Young, who ended up scoring a comically easy 19 points, and the Pistons were lucky the Nets did not go to him more. I don't know if SVG will stick someone else on Young. (Maybe Morris, maybe Stanley or Tolly get more playing time tonight) But they have to at least make him miss a few more shots.
- The New Bench Mob vs. Nets Bench Mob: The Nets do not have a good bench. In their currently injured state, I would even say that it is really bad. The Pistons bench might actually be very good now with Jennings running the show. And Jennings vs. Donald Sloan should figure to be laughably one sided in Jennings favor. Without Andre the Nets starters have a real chance to stick with the Pistons, but the Nets bench should not have a whole lot of chance. (Although their bench does play their tails off. I will give them that.)
- The Double Headed Monster: If Andre does not play, then tonight is the night I want to see the Jennings/Jackson combination. The Pistons might not need it against the Nets, but Reggie will now be the only creator on the Starters. That is a bad thing. Prop it up with Jennings. I want to see it, the time is now.
So in conclusion.
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Reggie is in hero ball mode and it is working.
The new bench runs the Nets bench out of the building.
Jackson and Jennings play together and are FREAKING AWESOME. (plz)
Run for the hills if:
Reggie/all of the Pistons offense looks totally out of sync and lost without Andre sucking in defenders.
Aron Baynes is totally outmatched by Lopez. (there is actually a decent chance of this one.)
Joe Johnson has a reawakening.
Thad Young causes SVG to personally murder Ersan Ilyasova.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Reggie takes advantage of a bad Nets defense to have a huge night in Andre's absence.
Either Thad Young or Brook Lopez go off for 30 points.
Jackson/Jennings happens and it is awesome.
The Pistons bench destroys the Nets bench and leads the Pistons to a fairly comfortable victory.
The Nets are not all that good. The Pistons are good. But without Andre the Pistons are a lot worse, so there is a chance this is a real game. And not in the flukey way the last one was.
What do you think? How will the Pistons fare without Andre? Let me know! We all get smarter!