Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST the Pistons will be hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Palace. The Pistons are on one day of rest after beating the Pelicans on Wednesday, while the Wolves are also on one day of rest after losing to the Cavs on Wednesday.
The Wolves are largely where they were we we left them last, although they have evened out a bit. They remain a fairly capable offensive team (although less so than early in the season) with a offensive efficiency of 106.4, and a fairly poor if not awful defensive efficiency of 107.6.
They are lead into battle, in both minutes played and points scored, by their 3 young stars. Zach Lavine has really come into his own as a player this year while playing almost exclusively SG, averaging 18.9 points and 3 assists per game and doing it very efficiently. Lavine is a scary blend of insane athleticism and shooting. The “regression” of Andrew Wiggins is largely overstated, he is averaging 22.1 points and 2.4 assists per game and shooting 6.3 free throws, while being a (almost) league average 3 point shooter at 34.7% from deep. He does all of this on a very difficult diet of isolation looks and generally having to create for himself. Karl-Anthony Towns is scoring 23 points per game with 11.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists (with 2.8 turnovers) and doing it stupid efficiently. His offensive game is a blend of athleticism, shooting, skill, and size that is hard to combat. All 3 are not there defensively though and have serious struggles on that end.
Beyond those 3, Gorgui Dieng is a rock solid 4 who can finish plays at the hoop and with a decent short to mid range jumper and can play some defense, and Ricky Rubio is playing point guard, he is a historically bad scorer and a wonderful passer and defender. He is really fun to watch, but it isn’t actually clear if he is much good and is still a rather heated point of debate. Shabazz Muhammad is a black hole who can bully his way to points inside and has found some consistency with his outside shot, even if it is still on very low volume. Nemanja Bjelica is supposed to be a stretch 4, but he has struggled with his shot all year shooting just 29.1% from deep, even so, he is fairly tall and skilled. Kris Dunn is a rookie and a point guard, he is bad, but can occasionally use his excellent athleticism to do some good things. Cole Aldrich is still doing his thing as a backup center and doing just a little bit of everything.
This is a young team with a lot of talent, but they are learning to play defense effectively and how to really jell on offense. They are not all that good of a team, but with their talent they are definitely a team that could beat anyone on any given night.
Matchups to watch:
- Andre vs. Everyone: He will get a mixture of Towns and Dieng. Towns is obviously incredibly talented, and Dieng is good. Andre has largely owned the Wolves in the past as Towns just doesn’t have the girth or experience to deal effectively with him, but the shooting of both guys can make the Pistons have some defensive problems given how badly they want Andre to stay near to the hoop.
- KCP vs Not cooling off too much: He obviously had a career night last night, in the past in his career he has had a tendency to drop back the other way. He has been better about it this year, but it is still important. Don’t come back with a bad game.
- Morris vs Wiggins: Wiggins is a really good isolation scorer, Morris is a really good isolation scorer. Wiggins is better than Morris obviously, but this is exactly the sort of matchup where Morris can occasionally be a superstar for a night and outplay a guy.
- Stanley vs Destroyer of worlds: Stanley has been awesome. His play, especially defensively, have been huge in the Pistons recent bench mob runs. If he can keep it up alongside good offensive play for a couple more weeks it will officially be time to be excited about Stanley again.
- Reggie vs Bounceback: Reggie has had a tendency to bounce back after having bad games. Rubio is a capable defender, but pretty much everywhere else is quite squishy so there should be a good chance for him to have a bounce back game.
- Pistons vs Hitting 3s: KCP’s incredible night covered up another night where the Pistons couldn’t hit 3s. If you take out KCP’s 8-11, the Pistons were 2 of 15 from 3. You can’t count on anyone to hit the shots he hit last game.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
- KCP is getting open a ton courtesy of Lavine, and he stays hot.
- The Wolves just don’t have the girth inside to hold Andre down in any way.
- Reggie Jackson is getting into the paint at will and doing good things once he gets there.
Run for the hills if:
- KCP regresses to the mean, big time.
- Any of the Wolves big 3 gets hot.
- The Wolves are hitting 3s at an absurd rate.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
- KCP gets a lot of open 3s and takes advantage.
- Andre Drummond owns.
- Reggie has a nice game but nothing crazy.
- Pistons play a good game all around and win in a borderline blowout.
What do you think? Can they contain Andre? Can KCP avoid the letdown?