Tonight the Pistons will be hosting the Pacers at the Palace at 7:30pm EST. The Pacers are on one days rest after beating the Magic on Sunday, and the Pistons are also on one days rest after beating the Heat on Sunday.
The Pacers are right along with the Pistons in the mix of the melee that is the not top 2 teams of the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have a solid but unimpressive offensive efficiency of 103.2, and a not horrible but not any good defensive efficiency of 104.6. (and yes, their net rating is worse than the Pistons) They are of course led into battle by Paul George, who is very good. He has taken a bit of a step back in public perception, but that is really just the public slowly correcting their perception of him from his time in the spotlight against the Heatles. George is still a hugely gifted scorer, averaging 22.1 points per game on very good efficiency, he is not passing the ball all that well, but he is still a absolutely terrifying defender. Jeff Teague may or may not play tonight, but he has started to find his footing, even if he is still shooting like crap from deep. Thaddeus Young on the other hand has really found his 3 point shot for the first time in his career, hitting 43.5% from deep. He overall is having a fairly nice, if not great season. Monta Ellis has fallen off a cliff and is coming off the bench now, while Myles Turner is better than anyone could've hoped him to be. Offensively he is shooting the ball very well from any distance, and he is blocking a ton of shots on defense. He still is far from being a defensive anchor, but he will get there eventually. Remember he's just 20 years old, and he is probably the Pacers' second best player. C.J. Miles can shoot 3s, the “Al Jefferson, 6th man” experiment has not gone particularly well. Glenn Robinson is starting now and is looking like he has fully found his place as a nice, well rounded, wing, role player. Aaron Brooks is off the bench as a speedy scorer at point guard, and Lavoy Allen can play defense.
This is a team that does have quite a bit of talent, but the pieces are kind of tricky and the talent might not be quite as good as some people thought. Even with that, Paul George is awesome, and as long as they have him they will be dangerous.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs. Guarding Paul George: This will mostly be Marcus Morris, which produced some really fun games last year in which they really went at each other. Marcus will have to pull out a good defensive performance where he does his patented thing of playing physical without fouling, while also making George work on defense. Other than Morris, Stanley and Tobias will certainly get some time on him as well, and they both will have to be on top of their games. I'm sick of guys having career nights against the Pistons.
Andre vs. Myles Turner: Andre has a huge strength and size advantage on Turner, and given that Thad Young at power forward is also a bit undersized, Andre should have no trouble controlling the glass on both ends of the floor, and also could have some good success out of the pick and roll which Turner still struggles a bit with. HOWEVA, Turner can freaking shoot. Andre can play on the perimeter, but it isn't what SVG wants, so the Pistons will either give up open shots to Turner or need guys other than Andre to clean the defensive glass. Neither option is a great one.
Leuer vs. Thad Young: Leuer is exactly the sort of guy that Young can potentially do some real damage too. Young is big enough to fight through Leuer, and is probably faster/quicker than Leuer. Young gave the Pistons fits last year when he was in Brooklyn, and I don't think that will change much.
Reggie vs. Keeping up the good vibes: After a rough start, Reggie played really well in his last game, and has quietly strung a few good games together. Another good game and a win tonight would certainly start to quiet down all the negativity surrounding him right now. If he lays another dud it will only get louder. He really needs to have a 2 week stretch of really good play that coincides with wins and then he (and the rest of the team) can put that whole thing behind them.
Tobias 6th man: Tobias has killed it coming off the bench so far this year. I want this to happen. 20 points again here we come.
Baynes? He has some sort of sprained ankle and was supposedly in a boot. No official word on whether he will play tonight, but the boot is a good indication he will miss at least one game. If he doesn't play, it will be interesting to see what SVG does to replace him. Boban? Leuer? Ellenson?
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre has 15 rebounds at the end of the first quarter.
Morris and George are dueling, and Morris is winning.
Tobias and the bench are running the Pacers out of the building.
Run for the hills if:
Myles Turner is raining death from deep on open shots.
Paul George starts to heat up.
Boban is the backup center, and looks awful.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre gets close to a 20/20 game.
Tobias, Reggie, and KCP all score 20 points. (with Andre not far behind.)
Boban gets to play and looks pretty good.
The Pistons manage to keep Paul George from killing them, and get big games from their big names to win a comfortable game.
What do you think? How should they replace Baynes? Can they stop Paul George?