Tonight the Pistons are back in action at the LCA as they welcome the Indiana Pacers for a game at 7:00pm EST. The Pistons are on three days of rest after beating the Kings on Saturday while the Pacers on on the second night of a back to back, and 3rd game in 4 days after losing to the Pellies yesterday.
After a very good start to the year, the Pacers have apparently begun to come back to earth with a three game skid. They still boast a surprisingly effective offense with an efficiency of 108.4 points per 100 possessions (good for 3rd in the NBA) while flipping with a terrible defensive efficiency of 106.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. Even with their recent skid they run like crazy, and still appear to have a potent offense, but their defense is what has collapsed recently.
Victor Oladipo has finally started to look like the player he was billed to be out of college scoring 23 points per game on good efficiency, but that is currently buoyed a bit by a (probably) unsustainable 44.1% mark from deep. Thaddeus Young is still a good inside scorer who abuses mismatches, and also appears to have fully found a three point shot. Darren Collison is a perfectly acceptable all around point guard who is mostly unremarkable in his goodness or his badness. Myles Turner has returned from concussion protocol and is looking as sharp as ever, he can shoot and has solid all around skills for a big guy and blocks tons of shots on defense but is still lacking in size and experience to be all the way there as a defender. Bojan Bogdanovic can shoot and score but not much else, Cory Joseph is a very good backup point guard, Lance Stephenson is probably just bad, T.J. Leaf has played pretty well in the early season. Damantas Sabonis can score inside and rebound, but he might be hurt for the game tonight.
This is a team that even with the recent losing streak has probably over performed in the early going of the season. The biggest question will be if Oladipo's epiphany is for real or not, if he falls off in a major way back towards the numbers he has put up the rest of his career there is a chance this team starts to get ugly, if he can keep from falling too far off though, he fills the largest hole that the team had coming into the year (imo) in giving them a legit perimeter scorer and creator. Regardless, this team is probably going to be better than a lot of people (including me) expected and they are pretty fun.
Matchups to watch:
Andre Drummond vs. Myles Turner: Assuming Oladipo regresses at some point, Turner is likely to be the Pacers best player by the end of the year and even though he is young he can really ball. He is in a similar build as Karl-Anthony Towns except not as skilled offensively or as soft defensively, but the basic outline is the same. He will give Andre (and the Pistons in general) trouble by drawing him out onto the perimeter, but Andre figures to give the Pacers absolute hell on the glass and in the paint.
Avery Bradely vs. Victor Oladipo: Oladipo's regression may have already started, he is shooting below 30% from deep and just over 40% from the field on their three game skid, and with Avery Bradley looming tonight, there is not much reason to think he will bounce back tonight. Without Oladipo scoring well the Pacer attack loses a lot of its teeth.
Stanley Johnson vs. Getting some buckets: He isn't likely to get many more touches than normal, but Stanley is likely to be guarded by Bojan Bogdanovic, who can't guard anyone. If Stanley can take advantage for a very efficient game it will be very helpful to the Pistons.
Energy: The Pistons should be super rested, and the Pacers are on as little rest as you get in today's NBA. Given their recent struggles the Pacers are likely to come out hungry early at least, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Pistons really took control of the game before the 4th quarter.
Tobias vs. Thad Young: Young is a high quality player, as is Tobias. They both will have their hands full guarding the other as well and they play similar roles for their teams. Whoever can win this matchup will be big.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre absolutely owns the paint on both ends of the floor.
Victor Oladipo hasn't hit a shot at half time.
The Pacers look gassed and uninterested. (Pistons fans should be familiar with this look from watching the Pistons the last couple of years.)
Run for the hills if:
Oladipo bounces back and re-finds star-caliber play.
Myles Turner is raining fire from deep.
The Pistons look rusty after having so long between games.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Drummond vs. Turner looks a lot like Drummond vs. KAT. (Which is good)
Oladipo can't get anything meaningful going offensively.
The Pistons struggle to contain Thad Young.
The Pacers look tired and out of it from start to finish, and the Pistons win in similar fashion to their victory over the Timberwolves earlier this year.
Pistons 122 – Pacers 105.
What do you think? Can Andre win his matchup? Can the Pistons keep Oladipo in his slump?