Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the New York Knickerbockers at the LCA. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Mavericks on Wednesday, while the Knicks are on the second night of a back to back after beating the Celtics last night.
Coming into this game the Knicks sport the 11th best offense in the NBA at 105.3 points per 100 possessions, and the 15th best defense at 105.0 per 100 possessions.
The Knicks are a surprise team of sorts so far this year, and it largely all comes down to one guy. Kristaps Porzingis has officially arrived, we will see if he can keep it up all season (he trailed off a bit last year and a lot of people around the team said that he struggled to keep up physically as the season went on in his first two years.) but he is currently averaging 24.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 2 steals per game. He is shooting 45.4% from the field and 38.5% from deep (that's a TS% of 55.9% btw). It turns out that it is almost impossible to guard a 7'3 guy who can shoot and dribble, and he also is a good defender.
Beyond him, Courtney Lee is still being awesome as a role player who can shoot and generally do a bit of everything. Jarrett Jack has worked his way back into the league even if he isn't much good. Tim Hardaway Jr. is still shooting poorly from deep but he has still been pretty good, though he is out right now. Enes Kanter has largely picked up right where he left off as a bruising interior scorer who abuses lazy/overmatched defenders on the glass, but he also is putting in better defensive effort than ever before. Doug McDermott can shoot and create for himself a bit and is their unofficial 6th man type. Frankie Smokes is a monster defender already and while he has a lot of work to do offensively, he is fearless and shows flashes. Kyle O'Quinn is like a better version of Aron Baynes. Michael Beasley went for 30+ against the Celtics last night so he probably will score 2 tonight. Lance Thomas can defend.
The Knicks find themselves in the thick of the playoff race because Porzingis has made the proverbial leap. The reality is that if you have a legit superstar you can at least hang around the back end of the playoffs regardless of the rest of the roster. So even though the rest of this roster isn't all that impressive, there is a little bit of ability and that is all they really need for now. In the end though, all that is important is that Porzingis continues to dominate fools.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs. Guarding Porzingis: Anthony Tolliver had some success, but I doubt that is repeated. They tried Stanley Johnson and that didn't work at all. I don't really know what the Pistons will do, but keeping Porzingis in check at least a bit is important.
Andre Drummond vs. Being a monster: Porzingis has no interest in banging down low with Drummond, and the Knicks have no one else who can match his size and athleticism. Drummond will have to be careful to avoid fouls guarding Kanter, but if he can he should be in for another really good game. Also watch for the potential to have SVG let Drummond take Porzingis for important possessions late in the game.
Jackson/Harris vs. Getting right: SVG put it bluntly and accurately yesterday: “It's not going to be good or look good or produce if we don't get Reggie and Tobias playing. We've got no way to play around both of those guys struggling.” Those two guys are the Pistons most important offensive creators. There is no strategy to get around them playing like crap. They must get back into form. Both guys were (and still are tbh) on pace for career years (in different ways) and the last couple weeks have been bad.
Backup Center vs. Eternal sadness: Eric Moreland went -22 in 11 minutes. Don't be the peeing at the bus stop kid.
Stanley Johnson vs. Being Bench Mob Ben Simmons: Shot 6 more free throws and scored 16 points in the last game. He continues to be ultra aggressive and effective with the bench. Hopefully he can keep it up.
Pistons vs. Good vibes only: As tough as the last few weeks have been, if the Pistons win this game they have 3 days off for Christmas and will be 18-14 and (likely) at least tied for 4th in the conference. Regardless of how the last few weeks have gone, everyone would have to feel pretty good about that.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre Drummond is dunking all over fools all game again.
Jackson and Harris become unstoppable scoring gods to make up for lost time.
Anthony Tolliver actually has something that bothers Porzingis in a major way.
Run for the hills if:
Porzingis starts to hit absurd shots.
Michael Beasley starts to hit absurd shots.
Jackson/Harris are still hot garbage.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Porzingis scores a lot of points.
Drummond has a lot of points and rebounds.
Only one of Jackson/Harris breaks out of the slump.
In a duel of the unicorns, the Pistons come out on top.
Pistons 102 – Knicks 101.
What do you think? Can the Pistons get Jackson or Harris going? Can Drummond out-unicorn Porzingis?