Tonight the Pistons will be in Indianapolis to play the Pacers at 7:00pm EST. The Pacers will be on the second night of a back to back after losing to the Hawks last night, and the Pistons will be on 1 days rest following a win against the Knicks on Thursday night.
The Them: The Pacers got off to a really strong start to the year and were firmly in the second tier (behind Cleveland) of the East on the back of Paul George playing awesome ball. He has since cooled off (significantly) and the Pacers have cooled off with him. They are still a solid team, but have clearly slipped back into the doghouse that is the middle/back end of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Paul George is still (easily) the Pacers best player, he is primarily a shooter on offense although he shoots from all over the floor, but he is not an especially good facilitator for others with the ball in his hands. Monta Ellis has perked up a little bit but is still averaging just 14.2ppg and not especially efficient. (which makes me sad because I love Monta) George Hill is still doing his thing as a kind of odd but still very effective two way PG. Lavoy Allen has been starting as of late and he is a big body who can play some defense and also can score inside with some competence. And Myles Turner, the rookie, has become the starter with Ian Mahimmi out, and he has actually looked really solid in a KAT lite sort of way, featuring a good combination of being able to shoot and score while still providing some real defensive value. CJ Miles is coming off the bench now but he is still chucking 3s at a high rate and hitting a respectable amount of them. (although he too has cooled off after a hot start) Jordan Hill does not defend or rebound especially well but he is generally a effective scorer. Glenn Robinson and Solomon Hill will both make cameos at some point and are pretty solid 2 way wings. The Pacers are dealing with some injuries to rotation guys with both Mahimmi and Stuckey being out, but they are still a very solid team. Their OffRtg. is a perfectly respectable 102.1, and their DefRtg. is a really solid 99.4. They are really a team with one super star in Paul George, and a bunch of other pretty solid players, with a really good coach. All that combines together for a team that is a really solid two way team.
Matchups to watch:
Morris vs. George: This matchup has actually been really fun to watch in each game they have squared off so far, and it got heated enough last game that there was an altercation at the end of the game. If George is not on his game then the Pacers become a much less potent team, and the reality is, that outside of the 4th quarter explosion at the end of the last game, Morris has given trouble to George which gives me some real hope about this game. The one thing that worries me though, is that after the way the last game ended, Paul George will be out for blood tonight and might go off.
Andre vs. Everybody: Myles Turner has played really well this year and is legitimately exciting for the Pacers. But he is a rookie, and he is not all that big yet. In fact, without Mahimmi, the Pacers do not have any good answer for Andre. So expect Andre to have a really good game, he certainly should. Turner should be too small and inexperienced to manage him, and Jordan Hill is just not good enough.
Pistons vs. Surviving KCP's absence: The pair of rookies played really well against the Knicks, and there is good reason to believe that they can hold the fort until KCP returns. But then again, it is never a great feeling to have a position where all of the minutes are going to rookies, because they crap the bed occasionally even if they are good. Also, please do not play Stanley 44 minutes again.
Bench mob vs. Shorthanded Pacers: Similarly to the Pistons, the injuries the Pacers have right now mostly are hurting their depth more than anything. However the Pacers are (probably) missing a little bit more from their bench. The Pistons bench mob should have a pretty big advantage over the Pacers.
Cooler heads prevailing: The last game got pretty chippy, I am all for that, but hopefully it does not nearly come to blows being exchanged again.
So in conclusion...
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Andre is showing the rookie a thing or two. or 20+ if you catch my drift.
The Pistons bench mob murders the Pacers.
Paul George tries his damnedest to stick it too Morris, but ends up forcing bad shots and sinking the Pacers offense in the process.
Run for the hills if:
Paul George has 20 points at the end of the first quarter.
Monta Ellis randomly has a really good game.
The pair of rookies look a lot like rookies and collectively shit the bed together.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre goes for 20/20
Marcus Morris outplays Paul George. (I could really look stupid for this one.)
Brandon Jennings has a really nice game.
The Pistons win pretty comfortably on the back of Andre Drummond.
What do you think? Think punches will be thrown? Let me know! We all get smarter!