Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Indiana Pacers at the LCA. The Pistons are on three days of rest after beating the Knicks way back on Friday, while the Pacers are on two days of rest after beating the Nets on Saturday.
Maybe the Pacers are for real? I'm taking an L on them this year regardless because even if they regress quite a bit they are already better and more fun than I would've guessed. I still think they will slow down at some point or another but for now they are in the thick of the playoff race and a half game ahead of the Pistons. They still sport a high-powered offense that ranks 6th in the NBA at 108.7 points per 100 possessions, while their defense is still hovering around competency at 17th in the NBA by allowing 106.1 points per 100 possessions which combines for the 7th best net rating in the NBA at +2.6.
Victor Oladipo has taken over the state of Indiana and has actually improved from his initial hot start. He is scoring 25.3 points per game with 3.9 assists and shooting 42.5% from the field and hitting clutch shots on nearly a nightly basis. Thaddeus Young is still a rock solid all around player who can get buckets on occasion. Bojan Bogdanovic can shoot, Darren Collison can do most basic point guard things. Myles Turner can shoot and block shots, and although he is still learning nuances on both ends he is big, strong, and skilled.
Off the bench Cory Joseph is a really good backup point guard, Domantas Sabonis is posting and toasting fools with regularity. Lance Stephenson is crazy in a mostly good way, and T.J. Leaf looks like a nice find in last years draft as a stretch 4.
This team still feels a bit like a mirage, Oladipo has always been a mediocre shooter from deep and, well, everywhere else too. It isn't very often that a guy smashes both his volume and efficiency numbers to utter pieces, he has a true shooting percentage of 60% this year, when his previous career best was 53.4% (which he averaged exactly the last two years) and if Oladipo slows down then it isn't clear how their offense stays in such potent territory. That said, Oladipo and the Pacers have continued to win longer than I thought they would, and if they keep it up for much longer it will be harder and harder to deny them. Regardless, they figure to be in the playoff picture most of the year in all likelihood.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Turner: Turner has almost become a forgotten man with how well Oladipo has been playing, but this kid is still a pretty special talent. Drummond should largely own the paint but Turner has the muscle to tangle down low with Drummond, and if Turner can start hitting jumpers it will be trouble for the Pistons.
Pistons vs. Oladipo: I'm assuming that Avery Bradley will not be returning yet, if he does then this is less worrying of course. Last time the Pistons were without Bradley against the Pacers and they largely did alright against Oladipo, if Reggie Bullock can replicate that performance with a little help from his friends then the Pistons should be in good shape, if Oladipo gets loose then he will be trouble.
Harris/Jackson vs. Doubling up: Both had encouraging games against the Knicks (even if Jackson's overall numbers were not great at the end) and played the kind of games the Pistons want and need. If they can do it again against another real team then that would be a good sign that it was just a slump they were both in.
Pistons vs. Not collapsing: They survived the last time, but the Pistons have blown big leads the last two times they played the Pacers. No matter what the lead could be I will not be comfortable until the final whistle sounds.
SVG vs. Rotations: I don't know who will start, Kennard or Tolliver, but it will be interesting to see what the rotation is for SVG. Hopefully Langston Galloway is back.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre Drummond owns the paint.
Tobias Harris is scoring all over some soft wing defenders.
Stanley Johnson is: Bench Mob Ben Simmons.
Run for the hills if:
Oladipo starts to get space.
Myles Turner starts hitting threes.
Lance Stephenson starts banking in threes to spark a comeback.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Oladipo is kind of held in check again.
The Pistons bench mob has a nice outing.
Drummond and Turner are the best two players on the floor by a wide margin.
The Pistons don't blow a big lead because the game is close all the way but the Pistons win.
Pistons 109 – Pacers 103.
What do you think? Can the Pistons contain Oladipo? Do you believe in the Pacers?