Tonight at 7:00 pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Boston Celtics at the LCA. The Pistons are on one day of rest following a loss to the Warriors on Friday night, as are the Celtics after losing to the Spurs.
The Celtics are largely in the same place they were the last time the Pistons saw them. (which is understandable given that it wasn't that long ago lol) They still feature the best defense in the NBA (by a smaller margin than before) by allowing 99.4 points per 100 possessions, and the 12th best offense by scoring 105.8 points per 100 possessions.
No matter what the filthy casuals might tell you, Al Horford is their best player. He scores 13.8 points per game on stupid efficiency, grabs 8.1 rebounds, leads the team in assists at 5.3 per game, and continues to play all world defense. He is very close to Kyrie in importance for Brad Stevens whirling offensive machine, and he is miles in front of Kyrie on defense. That said, Kyrie Irving is pretty stinking good, he has not had the revolutionary year that some people thought he would, or may try to convince you he is, but that is not a terrible thing. He is still a remarkable scorer who has vision issues as a ball handler and his effort comes and goes on defense.
Beyond those top two they have a merry band of scrappy veterans and young bucks trying to prove themselves. Jaylen Brown continues to build the case that he actually did make huge offensive improvements this offseason, Jayson Tatum continues to be almost impossibly good for a 19 year old rookie, Marcus Smart is a bizzare player who has terrible stats (HE SHOOTS 31.8% FROM THE FIELD) but is undeniably a positive player on the floor with his hustle, defense, and aggression. Marcus Morris is shooting a bit poorly but Pistons fans are well acquainted with his solid two way play. Terry Rozier can shoot a bit but isn't remarkable at much, Aron Baynes is a large human with a slip and slide for hands, Daniel Theis is big, Semi Ojeleye is not very good but he is young and shows flashes occasionally, Shane Larkin is fast.
This team has a two way star in Horford, an offensive star in Irving, an all-world coach, and a bunch of guys who work. If they have a hard regression it will probably come in the for of Brown and Tatum's offensive games (especially Tatum who is currently shooting 51.8% from deep) but game each one of them builds their case that they make actually just be that good.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. The Fishing Village: The Celtics simply do not have an answer for Drummond. This has been clearly shown over the last few years. Drummond is way to big and athletic for Horford, too athletic for Baynes, and too good for any other big on the roster. Horford can get some points back with his perimeter play on the other end, but Drummond is more comfortable defending out there than ever before. If Drummond can have another huge game then the Pistons will have a great shot to win.
Irving vs. Bradley: This is basically a classic duel in the league at this point. Irving is widely regarded as the best 1 on 1 scorer in the league, and Bradley is widely regarded as the best 1 on 1 defender. Last time Bradley got the best of Irving and the Pistons will need him to repeat that.
Marcus Smart vs. Not becoming Steph Curry: He shot like 6 of 9 from deep last game. A 28% shooter. If that happens again and the Pistons lose my mind will probably just break.
Tobias Harris vs. Jaylen Brown: Harris' dominance of Brown in the last matchup was possibly the most surprising thing of the last game. Brown couldn't hang with Harris on defense, and Harris largely kept Brown from doing anything on the other end. Expect Brown to come out with some real fire tonight.
UNLEASH THE BOBAN BABY: SVG did this crazy thing where he said “Who cares if the other team has a smaller center who can shoot. They have to defend Boban on the other end too” against the Warriors and it paid off. GIVE ME MORE OF IT.
Stanley Johnson vs. Putting the ball in the hoop: It has been an undeniably rough stretch for Stanley Johnson. He still does literally all of the little stuff that helps you win games. I'm still as big a supporter of Stanley as is possible, but there is no way around the fact that he needs to get the ball in the hoop more at some point.
The Basketball gods vs. Having some justice: The Pistons have lost 5 in a row, the last 4 are by the following point margins: 4, 4, 3, 5, and all include fouling at the end and some, uh, questionable calls. If they lose another crazy close game it may be time to sacrifice one of the two way players in the secret chamber that still resides underneath the Silver dome where the Lions originally sold their souls to get Barry Sanders.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre Drummond is the best player on the floor.
Marcus Smart is bricking threes all over.
Avery Bradley>Kyrie Irving.
Run for the hills if:
The Celtics have a better game plan to mitigate Andre a bit and the Pistons can't take advantage of the holes it might create.
Kyrie Irving has one of those games.
Whenever Stanley Johnson enters the game a hardhat warning is given to all court side seats.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
The Celtics are more prepared for Andre, but he still is damaging them in big ways and their adjustments open up holes for everyone else.
One of Tatum or Brown has a really nice game.
Avery Bradley replicates his success against Irving.
The Pistons have a big game from Andre and one other Piston (take your pick) and win a close game where the Celtics get screwed by a bad call late BECAUSE THERE HAS TO BE SOME JUSTICE IN THE WORLD.
Pistons 105 – Celtics 100.
What do you think? Can Andre be the best player on the floor again? Can Bradley lock up Irving?