Fresh off a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Western Conference-leading Portland Trail Blazers last night, the Detroit Pistons are immediately faced with another tough matchup in the Indiana Pacers tonight. The second night of a back-to-back in what could end up being their toughest two-game stretch of the season sees the Pistons travel to Indiana to take on the league’s best team.
While Detroit probably won’t be able to get enough stops to pull this one out, they did play well against Indiana the last time they met. They held the Pacers to only nine points in the second quarter of that game before giving up 36 after the half. Indiana is too good for Detroit, especially when the Pistons will be playing on the road and for the second night in a row. The Pistons have too many holes on defense, and their biggest leak comes where the Pacers’ best player resides. Paul George has arguably been the league’s MVP so far, and he shouldn’t have any problems exploiting Detroit’s poor defense down the stretch.
The Pistons could bounce back quickly with an away game against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, though. They defeated the Celtics by 10 at the beginning of the season, but rookie head coach Brad Stevens has his young group playing surprisingly well. Although they don’t score a lot of points, they don’t give up too many either – only 95.7 PPG, good for fifth best in the NBA.
The teams have similar records, but the Pistons have considerably more talent and experience collectively, which should put into perspective just how impressive of a coaching job Stevens is doing this season. Although it is on the road, the Pistons should win this game. Boston is gritty enough to pull out the win, though, so this will be a good test of Detroit’s mettle.
Friday night’s game, the first of two home games on consecutive nights, is an interesting one. The Charlotte Bobcats appear to be a much-improved team. However, the Bobcats have had a reputation for futility, and it’s hard to tell if they have actually improved or if the Eastern Conference has simply become that much worse.
Either way, the Bobcats are surpassing expectations this season. They’re giving up fewer points than Boston (92.5 PPG/2nd in NBA), and they are rebounding fairly well after the addition of Al Jefferson this offseason. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson could pose problems on the wings. Regardless, the Pistons should have enough of an advantage down low to secure the win as Charlotte shouldn’t have enough strength in the paint to compete with the Pistons’ jumbo front line. If they sleep on the Bobcats, though, they could find themselves with a loss after the final buzzer sounds.
Saturday brings another dreaded game against the Western Conference, and it could be a matchup nightmare for the Pistons. The Houston Rockets bring Dwight Howard, arguably the best big in the league, and James Harden, arguably the league’s best shooting guard, to the Palace of Auburn Hills.
The obvious intrigue jumps right off the page – Andre Drummond vs. Dwight Howard. If you have been looking for a good measuring stick of Drummond’s progress in his sophomore season, this has to be it. A strong performance from Drummond could bring more positive attention his way, much in the way the battles with LeBron James did for Paul George last season, but it is also possible that Howard shows him the ropes, so to speak, and puts a dent in Drummond’s All-Star selection chances.
The Rockets are scoring 107 points per game this season while giving up the 28th most per game. It isn’t likely, but if Detroit can get Howard into some foul trouble they could put up a fight. I suspect Harden to run wild while Howard keeps Detroit’s bigs busy, though, so Houston should take this one – and it could become easy for them at some point.