Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be in the capital to play against the Washington Wizards. Both teams are on one day of rest after the Pistons beat the Hornets and the Wizards beat the Sixers on Wednesday night.
The Wizards are a very good, and possibly great, team. With the Hayward injury they likely will stand as the toughest test for Cleveland when all is said and done as long as they can stay healthy. And even though it is important for every team to stay healthy, it is especially important for the Wizards because they are heavily reliant on their excellent starting lineup, and while their bench figures to be less bad than last year it isn't likely to be much good.
They are lead by John Wall, who is right with Kyle Lowry competing for title of best point guard in the East (I'd take Wall FWIW) and he is a monster. Wall is a one man fast break, great driver and passer, and is not a huge threat to shoot but you have to respect his shot. He also is capable of being one of the most destructive defensive point guards ever when he is fully locked in on that end, and admittedly his effort does come and go a bit in the regular season. Regardless, he is awesome. Bradley Beal is the number two, and he is an excellent foil for Wall. Where Wall is the super-charged passer who scores on brute athleticism, Beal is a more pure and skilled scorer. Beal is an excellent shooter from all over the court, and is also very solid going to the hole to be a super efficient and high volume scorer. He also is a pretty solid defender who has good length and generally gives solid effort.
Beyond the top two, the newly very rich Otto Porter is the perfect role player who never needs plays ran for him but can finish looks created by others from anywhere on the court and play good defense, and Marcin Gortat is a rock solid all-around center who is big, strong, skilled, and disciplined. Markieff Morris is hurt so he will be out of the game, and the guy who had been his replacement (Jason Smith) got hurt early in their last game and it isn't clear if he will play or not. This likely will thrust Kelly Oubre Jr into a starting, or at least more significant role, and despite a excellent opener and preseason, is likely still a similar player to Stanley Johnson. Good athlete who plays very hard on defense, still working out a lot of kinks offensively, in fact he was probably worse than Stanley on offense last year. After that our old friend Jodie Meeks comes off the bench as well, he can shoot and has a knack for drawing fouls. Mike Scott was signed from Atlanta and he is a decent all-around backup 4, not all that good at anything but decent at most things. Ian Mahinmi is looking to bounce back after an injury-riddled season last year, if he gets back into form he should be a very good backup, and Tim Frazier is the backup point guard and he is just kind of a stereotypical backup point.
This team is awesome when they are clicking, but is prone to bouts of bad play and their bench may or may not be terrible. Markieff Morris being out hurts them quite a bit and if Jason Smith is out tonight then they are very thin up front.
Matchups to watch:
The bench mobs: Even with Morris out it cannot be stressed enough, the Wizards starting lineup is great. Last year they were by far the most used lineup in basketball and were a elite unit by any measure. It is very likely that they will outscore the Piston starters. The Pistons best chance in this game likely will be for their bench to run the Wizards' bench off the floor and have the starters hold on.
Tobias vs. Someone: Whoever starts will have a big effect on Tobias. If Smith starts and the Wizards let him guard Tobias (which is likely, if they slide Porter down then Smith is on Stanley) then Tobias should be able to do some work scoring the ball. If Oubre starts and/or the Wizards put Porter on him, he will have a much tougher time.
Reggie Jackson vs. Staying in control: He did a great job in game 1, and if he is ready to start going hard again then bring it on. But if we assume that he is going to be shaking off the rust for a bit still, then it is imperative that he doesn't try to do too much and shoot the Pistons out of the game.
Stanley Johnson vs. Hitting some shots: Don't go 0 for 13 again please.
Bradley/Johson vs Wall/Beal: IF the Wizards start Oubre, I would guess that Avery Bradley will guard Wall, Stanley Johnson gets Beal, and Jackson slides down onto the non-threatening (we hope) Kelly Oubre. That means a pair of REALLY good offensive players will be going at a pair of REALLY good defensive players. Should be fun.
Andre vs Foul trouble: He got into trouble against Charlotte but the Pistons won anyways, but even with Andre the starters will be hard pressed to keep up, without him they may not have much chance.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Wall and Beal are struggling mightily against Bradley and Johnson.
Reggie isn't forcing the issue and plays another really good game.
The Pistons bench mob goes +25 in 10 minutes.
Run for the hills if:
The Pistons get tagged with early foul trouble again.
Tobias struggles to score against a (likely) much tougher defense than the first game and Reggie tries to overcompensate and misses a bunch of bad shots.
The Wizards' bench plays the Pistons even.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
One of Beal/Wall has a really good game, the other struggles.
Kelly Oubre misses a lot of shots after a great opener.
The Pistons starters stay almost even, the Pistons bench destroys the Wizards.
Pistons 107 – Wizards 100.
What do you think? Can the starters hang in there? Can Andre avoid foul trouble?