The Pistons are in LA to play against the Clippers at 3:30pm est on Saturday. However this looks to be a hobbled Clippers team. J.J. Reddick and Chris Paul are most likely going to not play. (Although neither are long term injuries so there would still be a small chance they could play tomorrow, but everything I have seen says that they will both be out.) And although I have seen nothing to suggest that he is going to miss any times or have any restrictions, Deandre Jordan tweaked his shoulder a bit against the Suns. Although he looked ok the rest of the game. As such, the Pistons likely have a chance to steal a game against a really good team. Also, since it looks like neither Reddick or Paul will play. Unless otherwise stated, assume that all of this post is assuming that neither will be playing.
The Them: The Clippers are off to a 5-4 start, which is not all that impressive considering that they are legit title contenders. (where they fall in that category can be debated, but they are contenders.) Without Chris Paul it means that Blake Griffin gets to go full god mode on everyone. And in case you didn't know, he is pretty good at the whole god mode thing. He is scoring 26 points really efficiently and passing and rebounding well too. Deandre Jordan anchors the D with good rim protection and rebounding. However the rest of the team is an interesting bunch. They almost have the opposite problem as the Pistons have with the players beyond their best couple. The Pistons have a lot of guys who can (theoretically) shoot, but not enough guys to create/stir the pot. While I don't really believe there is such a thing as to much playmaking, but the Clippers are testing that. They have a lot of guys who are pretty good at doing their own thing whether it be getting their own shot, or creating something for others, but not a lot of guys who are awesome at converting on those creations. They do have two of the best in the NBA at finishing plays made by others, (Jordan and Reddick) but one of them is hurt. This makes for kind of tricky managing of the bench. The Clips have a good coaching staff so I would imagine that they will figure it out by the time the season is over, but right now it has not really jelled all that well. Also, Doc Rivers apparently has this weird belief that Jamal Crawford should be a regular crunch time player. So thats kind of weird. However, even hobbled, this is a good team. And a team that may be a really bad matchup for the Pistons.
Matchups to watch
Clash of Titans: This is Drummond/Jordan in case you did not know. We were robbed of an epic duel of Centers in Sac town by Boogie going "lulz why would I challenge him inside when I can stand out here and shoot." THIS WILL NOT BE AN ISSUE WITH DEANDRE JORDAN. Seriously though. This should be kind of fun. These are the two best rebounders in basketball, and they are also two of the most gifted athletes in basketball. (Certainly among big men.) And neither is skilled enough that they can afford to do stuff that isn't hella athletic. (although I think Drummond is more skilled than Jordan but thats just my opinion) The other thing is that both of these guys really pride themselves on their rebounding. Like watching them, even if neither are Lance Stephenson levels of stealing boards to pad stats, they both gobble up anything they can, even if there are teammates who are readily available. And both are likely to give it a little extra to prove who the real best is. I personally do think Drummond should come out on top here, because he is everything Jordan is, but he also has some amount of basketball skills to go along with it. However make no mistake. Jordan is probably the only guy in basketball who can bang and jump with Dre. This is an issue because Dre getting all the rebounds is a huge part of the Pistons doing well. There is a chance however, that Andre is bigger and stronger. (Drummond is listed as having about 15 pounds on Jordan) And Andre might be able to win by enough that he can still get his numbers. If that happens it would be huge, but in all likelihood they will mostly battle to a standstill. (Although I do think Dre wins the matchup overall. One big reason being that he should be able to largely negate lob city, which is where most of Jordan's offensive usefulness comes from.
The guards: The Clips starting backcourt is not playing. The Clips will start Austin Rivers. While Rivers is generally actually a decent player, and a solid backup. He is not a starter. His only real use on offense is being able to shoot a bit. But Jackson is big enough that Rivers won't be able to shoot over him. And Rivers is a pretty good defender, but Jackson is better on offense I think, and at SG, Jamal Crawford is the likely starter, and while he is still capable of scoring, he was a bad defender even before he was old as dirt. But now he is even worse on D. And he has also shot like crap so far this year. This should, and needs to be a big advantage for the Pistons. The backcourt needs to be a lot better than the Clips, because as just mentioned, Andre will likely not be able to single handedly rebound the Pistons to a win. And also, there is another matchup that will almost certainly go the Clips way big time....
Blake Griffin vs. Uh Oh: Blake is exactly the kind of player that the Pistons will struggle with all year. A really good offensive player who is too big for KCP, and also too small for Drummond. A combination of Ersan Ilyasova, Greater Morris, Tolly, and Stanley Johnson will be on Blake. None of those are good match ups. The only thing that I can allowing the Pistons to keep this under control is to do like they did Boogie towards the end of the Kings game. Stick a small dude on him so he can't can open jumpers. And when he bullies inside, sic Andre on him. But here is the issue with that. Blake is an awesome passer, and he has a killer lob option to Jordan. There is the chance for Blake to have a BIG game, however, if the Pistons forwards can keep him at least a little bit under control/Blake just has an off game, the Pistons could end up with a pretty easy victory. I doubt that will happen though. (I personally think this would be a decent time to try the Baynes/Drummond pairing. With Baynes taking Blake. I'm sure Baynes has no PTSD from him. That instance aside. If Blake is just killing whoever the Pistons out on him. I would not mind seeing how that lineup would do. But I admit that I would just like to see if that lineup can do anything regardless of if there is a good reason for it or not.)
Jamal Crawford vs. Shooting slumps: Jamal Crawford is old as dirt. But he is still Jamal Crawford. I have an irrational fear of Jamal Crawford. And he has shot like crap so far this year. Which means it is likely that before to long, he is going to go off. Pray he does not pick this game to come out of his slump.
Paul Pierce: He is too old to like take over a game. But he also falls into the category of the kind of guy that the Pistons don't have a good answer too. And if he is able to score like, 15ish points really efficiently that would change the way this game goes. Even if he can't take over. Also he will probably end up going against Stanley Johnson for a bit, and Pierce has exactly the sort of old man game to eat a young gun. Although the thought of old man Paul Pierce trying to stay in front of Johnson eases these fears a little bit.
Josh Smith plays for the Clippers. In case you did not know. He continues his quest for a second life as a killer swiss army knife bench guy. He is good in that role. But he has shot like, well, Josh Smith so far this year.
So in conclusion
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Andre is blocking every lob put up to Jordan, and has a fire lit in him from the start of the game and wins the battle of the boards with some distance.
Blake Griffin does not score literally every time he has the ball.
Lance Stephenson does something stupid.
Josh Smith shoots.
KCP is doing all sorts of stuff on offense since he is being guarded by Jamal Crawford.
Run for the hills if:
Andre looks like some young blood getting taught by Jordan.
Blake Griffin scores literally every time he touches the ball.
Jamal Crawford goes off.
Austin Rivers can play good enough defense no Reggie to keep Reggie from killing the Clips all night.
Josh Smith irrationally hits shots because screw the Pistons.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Drummond wins the Clash of titans.
KCP has a career night.
Reggie has a big night.
Blake Griffin nearly single handedly drags the Clips to the win, but falls just a bit short.
This could be a fun game, because there are the Centers who will be beating the living hell out of each other all game, plus some obvious mismatches on both sides. This is a game the Pistons really should get though. It is a chance to steal a game from one of the NBA's better teams. And they get the Lakers next. A win would mean that the Pistons can still end up with a hugely successful west coast trip. A loss would put a real damper on that, although they do play the Lakers on Sunday so if the Pistons lose we can all sleep a little easier knowing that.
What do you think? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!
P.S. Because of weird game time, I will not be able to watch because I will be working. As such there will NOT be a recap from me. So if you watch for them, don't tomorrow. Because I will have no thoughts to give, unless I can get creative in finding some way to watch. But I doubt it.