Tonight the Pistons will be in Charlotte to play against the Hornets at 7:00pm EST. The Pistons are on one days rest following a win over the Mavs on Wednesday. The Hornets are also on one days rest following a win over the Pellies.
The Them: The Hornets are good, seriously. They are really good. They play the same solid defense that has been their calling card since Steve Clifford took over as coach with a DefRtg. of 101.6, and with some lineup and roster changes they have changed from a plodding and inefficient offensive team into a spacing, shooting, running offense that has a very solid OffRtg. of 103.9. Kemba Walker has been having easily his best season, taking advantage of the new found space on the offensive end to score an efficient 21.4 points per game. This dude is really good, seriously. He is facilitating, committing murder on step backs in the midrange, and pulling for off the bounce 3s when teams duck under screens. He is also one of the few guys who can challenge Reggie Jackson for most ballsy clutch scoring. Courtney Lee has been a very nice addition to the team since his arrival, (and a big upgrade over PJ Hairston) being another really good outside shooter and he can defend. Nic Batum has cooled off a bit after a really good start to the season, but he is still averaging a solid 14.4 points and 5.4 assists per game, and is the teams second offensive creator behind Walker. Marvin Williams appears to have finally found a home in Charlotte as a stretch 4, and he is a real solid one, he can really shoot from outside and has a decent off the bounce game to go along with being a competent defender. He is sort of like a slightly better version of Ersan. And Cody Zeller has proven to actually be a really solid NBA center. He does not tear things up on either end, but he can finish at the hoop, shoot in the midrange a bit, and give some rim protection. Essentially the perfect fit match for the rest of the spacey starting lineup. Off the bench Al Jefferson is still a very capable scorer in the post, but he is not playing all that much and is probably not 100% yet still. Jeremy Lin is a really solid backup PG who is a very capable PnR ball handler. Jeremy Lamb has also found a home as a solid bench cog 3 and D type with a little off the bounce punch to his game, and Frank Kamisky rounds out regular rotation and he can shoot a little bit, and is not bad, but not very notable either. This is a team that is deep, and has a lot of really solid players, and a very good coach. I have a soft spot for them (I literally have no idea why. Probably thought their Jerseys were cool when I was little) and I think if they can keep most of their guys around and add another piece or 2 they could really make some noise in the future. For now they are just a really solid team.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs. Kemba: Kemba is their best player. I would guess that KCP will get most of the time guarding him and Reggie will slide over to Lee, and I have a lot of faith in KCP's ability to handle a guy like Kemba. And if he can smother Kemba the Hornets will be in for a rough night. Also one downside to Courtney Lee is that it has made the Hornets smaller, Batum used to be the SG, which is why Reggie could not just switch down one to allow KCP to take Walker.
Andre vs. Everyone: Cody Zeller is solid, but he is not anywhere near as good as Andre is. And even though Al Jefferson is good, he is not playing a lot and is not exactly a fearsome athlete. Simply put, the Hornets do not have much in the way of good answers for Andre. Which means that Andre could be in for another big night.
Morris vs. Batum: I'm guessing here that Morris will get Batum. Batum is the second option for the Hornets, and so it will be important for Morris to bring his usual defensive effort. And the other thing is that Batum is a bit small for a SF, as such Morris might have a chance to bully him a bit on the other end. If Morris can manage to win this matchup it will be a big positive in the Pistons favor.
Bench vs. PRAY FOR THE BENCH: It is incredible that this bench crew has managed to survive. SVG cut down all the way to a 8 man rotation against the Mavs, which is not ideal, but there might not be much choice at this point. If Bullock and/or Steve Blake hit a cold streak for even a game the bench will die. Because that is damn near the only thing keeping them afloat. And I am super worried, because both Blake and Bullock have shot well enough that some regression to the mean is probably coming at some point. So just pray that the regression does not come until they get whole again.
Pistons vs. Exhaustion: It is hard to play an extended amount of time in the regular season with a 8 man rotation. If they keep getting this sort of minute burden it will be a real challenge. I think the Pistons have enough toughness to fight through it, but still something to watch.
So in conclusion...
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Andre is destroying everything on his way to another big game.
Morris and KCP lock down their matchups, effectively bottling up the Hornets 2 best offensive players.
Reggie Bullock and Steve Blake continue to hit every 3 they see.
Run for the hills if:
Law of averages is a bitch sometimes.
Kemba Walker is giving KCP flashbacks to Aron Afflalo. (I hope I spelled Aron right. I feel like he spells it weird. Oh well.)
Al Jefferson manages to pump fake Andre into foul trouble.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre does in fact have a pretty monster game.
KCP and Morris are awesome defensively.
Steve Blake will miss every 3 he takes.
The Hornets struggle to create any offense with Walker and Batum locked up, and the Pistons win a close and entertaining game.
This should really be a fun game. The Hornets are a fun team, and they are pretty evenly matched with the Pistons.
What do you think? Think Morris and KCP can hold the fort? Let me know! We all get smarter!