Tonight the LA Clippers will be at the Palace of Auburn Hills to play the Pistons at 7:30pm EST. The Clippers are 14-10, and have not played since Saturday(!). The Pistons are on 1 days rest.
The Them: The Clippers are largely in the same spot that they were last time the Pistons played them. They are starting to show a little bit of life, but they are still way below where they were expected to be. Blake Griffin continues to be an absolute freaking monster scoring in a large variety of ways as well as throwing smart passes all over the place. At this point Griffin is absolutely one of the best players in basketball, and there is no longer any argument to be had against it. Chris Paul has had a couple of injuries but is still scoring efficiently and passing the ball at a very good clip (as well as his usual good defense.). JJ Reddick is still sniping fools out of the building by shooting 45.7% from 3, and Deandre Jordan still regularly ends peoples lives with dunks and blocks. (RIP in pieces Greg Monroe.) So yeah, all 4 of those guys are still going strong, it is everyone else on the team that is giving them troubles. Despite shredding the Pistons last time they played, Jamal Crawford has had a miserable season shooting the ball, and since that is all he can really do it means he is just having a miserable season. Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson have fallen very flat so far. And Paul Pierce has been remarkable bad, like Kobe bad but without the clear zero craps given. At this point Wes Johnson and Austin Rivers have (probably) been the most usable bench guys on the team, Rivers can play defense and also occasionally will go on a scoring spurt. And Johnson is actually looking like a pretty decent 3 and D wing. And after some rotations, Luc Mbah a Moute is expected to start at SF tonight. Luc can play some defense but does not do a whole lot on offense. The Clippers right now are not that different from the Pistons, except the difference is that their bench was supposed to be killer good. Where as once Meeks went down everyone could see that the Pistons bench was going to suck. But the Clips are playing better the last few games and their defense has looked better. Over the course of the season their offense is still a very solid 103.8, but the defense is where they need to keep up their improvement. As they currently sit at a pretty mediocre 101.1.
Matchups to watch:
Blake Griffin vs. here we go again: Griffin is really good, and the Pistons still do not really have anyone to guard him. Ersan will play hard and do Ersan type things obviously, but he just is not a good one on one defender, ditto for Tolly. It is a serious issue, and while he did not have a super crazy game last time, he still had a very good one. This time Chris Paul is back so Griffin will not be required to do as much, but he might anyways. Because this is a one sided matchup. The first threory would be to do Griffin like they did Paul George, and have Andre shade hard towards Griffin, and have the on ball defender overplay the jump shot and try to funnel any drives towards a waiting Andre. The problem with that is that 1. Deandre Jordan is a whole lot bigger threat than Ian Mahinmi. 2. Griffin is a whole lot better passer than George. SVG will have to get creative here, and finding a way to keep Griffin from having a big game, while still actually covering the other 4 guys on the court will be a big decider in this game.
Clash of the Titans 2: Drummond and Jordan are both big, huge, tenacious athletes. Last time these two played Andre got the better of him, but Jordan is still very good. Both live in the paint as well which makes it more fun, because neither has the ability to go to the perimeter to beat the other. It will just be these two beating the living hell out of each other all game, which is always fun. But at this point I am pretty confident Andre will win the matchup, this is mostly just because it will be fun to watch.
Jackson vs. Paul: Both are really good (Paul is better by a decent margin obviously) and both play both ends of the court. Jackson is a lot bigger and more athletic however, which is something that can give Paul some trouble. A key for Jackson will be navigating the sea of screens that will be set on him, because if he is slow, and allows Paul to load up his free throw line jumper with consistency they Pistons will be in serious trouble. On the other end, Jackson needs to be able to use his athleticism advantage to beat Paul to the rim. Either way, two really good players going against each other so it will be fun to watch. KCP vs. Lots and lots of running: KCP will get to guard Reddick. Reddick spends the entire game sprinting around screens all over the court. KCP has been awesome on defense all year, but this is one of the harder guards in basketball quite frankly. But if KCP can work his magic and essentially take Reddick out of the game, (which he has done to others like Reddick before) then the Clippers lose a big part of their offense. I think KCP is up to the challenge, but it will be hard.
Bench mobs: The Pistons bench sucks, but fortunately, so does the Clippers. Both teams have very good starters however, and as such, there is a decent chance that whichever bench manages to suck less might well end up winning.
Jamal Crawford vs. Hot night: It happened last game so it is unlikely to happen tonight, but I still have an irrational fear of Jamal Crawford.
So in conclusion
Cackle with knowing glee if:
-Blake Griffin is looking like Paul George the other night in that he is confused how the hell the Pistons are keeping him from scoring every time he touches the ball.
Andre is locked in to show Jordan who's boss, and succeeds.
KCP is in Reddick's hip pocket all game.
Jackson dunks on Chris Paul several times.
Pistons bench sucks less than Clippers bench.
Josh Smith shoots a 3.
Run for the hills if:
Blake Griffin scores every time he touches the ball.
Jordan is pissed about getting beat last time and battles toe to toe with Andre.
Jamal Crawford starts hitting shots in bunches.
Chris Paul uses his general awesomeness to destroy Reggie.
The Clippers bench decides to play like they were expected too.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
KCP envelopes Reddick all game.
Andre is truly a lot better than Jordan.
Blake Griffin scores, like, a billion points.
Stanley Johnson ends up having a big game to carry the bench and the Pistons win.
The Clippers are fun to watch, there is no way around it. As such, this should be a fun game to watch. A lot of it will depend on if the Clippers actually have found something the past few games or not. Because if they are really starting to put it together then they are a much better team than the Pistons and should win. But if they are still floundering a wee bit then the Pistons absolutely have a chance.
What do you think? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!
P.S. It was asked of me why I am such a homer for always picking the Pistons in these posts. Yes I do always pick the Pistons. I don't always think they will actually win, but I pick the Pistons because I don't want to give myself any reason to root against them. So in essence what the basic outline I give in my prediction are the things that have to happen in order for the Pistons to win, which sometimes I even admit that it is a long shot. But that does not mean that I am not going to hope that the long shot happens.