Fresh off of a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Detroit Pistons(11-5) will travel back to Little Ceasers Arena to face the Cleveland Cavaliers(9-7). Perhaps the NBA’s most surprising and underrated team, the Pistons will look to make another statement, this time against the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions. Despite the daunting matchup, the Pistons have plenty of reasons to feel confident.
For starters, they have a better record than the alleged best team in the Eastern Conference. Secondly, Detroit has as many wins this season against the Warriors than the Cavaliers did in last year’s NBA Finals. Third, Cleveland is pretty banged up and still trying to sift through some chemistry issues.
Cavaliers’ head coach Tyronn Lue has been juggling lineups more than a baseball manager over a 162-game season. To make matters even more confusing is the revolving door at point guard. Derrick Rose and Isaiah Thomas are both injured. Replacement Iman Shumpert just went down with a knee injury that will sideline him for five to seven days. Cleveland will reportedly start journeyman Jose Calderon at the point against the Pistons, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. That is certainly less than ideal. Tristan Thompson is still several weeks away from returning. Detroit is relatively healthy, an advantage heading into tonight’s matchup.
Of course, it cannot be discounted that LeBron James still wears a wine and gold jersey. Even if Calderon starts at point guard, it is entirely possible (and probable) that James runs the show. The Pistons have had lapses defensively this season, something that could cost them dearly against a powerful Cavaliers’ scoring attack.
Detroit will have quite a few advantages heading into this game. The Cavaliers have lead for just about 40% of all minutes played this season according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, so the wins they do have are the result of solid fourth quarters. If the Pistons can stifle the Cleveland offense long enough, they may just give up and accept the early season loss. Detroit has a clear advantage at point guard and at center too. The Cavaliers have been borderline horrendous at defending the pick and roll, something the Pistons should turn to early to set the tone.
That being said, Cleveland has shown up to play good teams. They have wins over the Celtics, Bucks (twice) Wizards, Hornets, and Clippers. They are also riding a four-game winning streak and a have a surprisingly good bench. Oh, and they have LeBron. That is good enough to beat just about anyone.
Detroit has, and will, prove to be a tough order for teams this season including Lebron and the Cavaliers.
Probable Starting Lineups:
PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Stanley Johnson
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Andre Drummond
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: J.R. Smith
SF: LeBron James
PF: Jae Crowder
C: Kevin Love
Jon Leuer is having another MRI done on his ankle, as he has missed the last eight games.
Cleveland is without Rose, Thomas, Thompson, and Shumpert as previously mentioned.
(Featured image by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)