Tonight the Pistons will welcome the Cavs to the Palace of Auburn Hills to do battle at 7:30pm EST. The Cavs and Pistons are both coming in on 1 days rest following a win on Wednesday.
The Them: The Cavs are pretty clearly the top team in the east so far this year, and they are just starting to get fully healthy. Ignoring the one destruction at the hands of the Warriors (which I am, because regular season) this team is an absolute monster. With a spectacular OffRtg. of 105.8 and a solid DefRtg. of 100.2 they play both ways. Obviously this team begins and ends with LeBron James, he is doing his thing scoring 25 points, getting about 7 assists and 7 boards per game, because of course he is. His shooting has been off this year but has improved a bit as late, and also has not coasted on defense as much this season as last. He is (still) the best player in the world and it is not all that close. Kevin Love is much maligned, but he is still really good, scoring 15.7ppg on pretty solid efficiency, and 10.8 boards per game. Also Love's defense is not nearly as bad as people make it out to be. Kyrie Irving is still working his way back into playing shape, and is not scoring all that much (15.4 per game) or all that efficiently (shooting just 41/27) but he will turn that around eventually. JR Smith is still doing his thing where he happily chucks away open threes fed to him by LeBron and shoots them at a excellent clip, and also provides a dash of playmaking and shot creation of his own. And Timofy Mozgov appears to be rather hampered by his surgery from the offseason, but is still big, skilled, and pretty smart. (like a taller Aron Baynes.) Matthew Dellavedova is still holding on as a super try hard defender and good shooter, and also has hooked up with Tristan Thompson for one of the more surprising deadly PnR duos in basketball. Speaking of Thompson, he is still a real monster on the boards, and will dunk a few times, but does not do a whole lot else. Richard Jefferson is still somehow a viable rotation player, and Iman Shumpert is a solid 3 and D guy. This team has a lot of really good players on it, and they are just starting to get fully healthy. This is a really freaking good team, and whether or not they have any coach or not, as long as LeBron is on the floor, this is one of the best teams in basketball.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs. Guarding LeBron: Marcus Morris will get most of this assignment, and did a very solid job last time around against him. But it will be required again, and some other guys (most notably Stanley Johnson and Reggie Jackson) who chipped in some solid possessions on James as well, and they will need to do it again tonight. Until Irving has worked his way back or Tyronne Lue figures out how to bring out old Kevin Love, LeBron is the guy who runs this show. Hold him down and you hold the Cavs down.
Andre vs. Everybody: The obvious here. Between Mozgov, Thompson, and Love (even Varejoa if you want) there are some good players and especially rebounders. Andre will have his work cut out for him and he will have to eat his wheaties in the morning. But on the other hand, Andre is bigger and stronger than any of them. He runs the show for the Pistons, he will need a solid effort.
The Bench Mobs: Both teams feature really solid bench mobs with a few players who are good and pretty fun to watch. Both like to run the ball a bit, and have several guys who play their tails off. Should be one of the better bench mob battles you will see over the course of a NBA season.
KCP vs. Irving: KCP figures to get most of the time on Irving, who has not played very well since returning from injury. KCP should be able to keep Irving in his slump, but Irving will bust out of it in a big way at some point. Pray it is not tonight.
Pistons and the Future lineup: Got to see some of the Jackson/KCP/Johnson/Morris/Drummond lineup a bit more lately, and even though it has not played a lot, it has been really good. There is a good chance that this lineup is the future of the team, so watch with some intent if we see it again tonight.
So in conclusion...
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Marcus Morris' physicality is giving LeBron enough trouble to keep him from single handedly destroying the Pistons.
Irving still looks out of it.
Kevin Love ends up having to try and guard a Jackson/Drummond Pick and Roll.
Run for the hills if:
LeBron is unstoppable.
JR Smith has one of those games.
Irving comes out of the slump.
Delly goes after someone's knees.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre has another big game.
Kevin Love scores 30 points.
JR Smith has an inexplicable explosion in one quarter.
Pistons are carried by Andre Drummond to a glorious victory over the Cavs.
Should be a good game, always fun to watch LeBron play, even if you hate him, enjoy watching him.
What do you think? Think that lineup is the future? Let me know! We all get smarter!