Game Preview: Following Rout, Pistons Face Harden-Less Rockets

If you did not watch last night’s crushing defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, nobody could fault you. If you did, hopefully you have a short-term memory. The Pistons (20-17) will try to have a short-term memory too, as they make a quick turnaround and face the James Harden-less Houston Rockets (27-10) tonight at Little Caesar’s Arena.

Whether it shows up on the formal injury report or not, the Pistons are playing hurt. Andre Drummond is dealing with a rib injury, Avery Bradley is fresh off returning from a groin injury and is not 100%, Stanley Johnson has a hip injury, and Reggie Jackson is out for the foreseeable future with an ankle ailment. While this does not excuse a disastrous game last night, there are some factors that contributed.

Houston is not 100% healthy either, as they will be without superstar James Harden. He is dealing with a hamstring injury and has not played in the last two games. The Rockets, however, have been fueled by recent-signing Gerald Green. In Harden’s absence, Green has put up games with 27 and 29 points while shooting 55.2 percent since Houston signed him on December 28th. Between Green, reigning Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon, and Chris Paul, Houston is still a lethal team.

Tonight’s matchup will feature a struggling defense in Houston against a struggling offense in Detroit. The Pistons haven’t scored 100 points in four of the past five and are 24th in the league in shooting percentage. The Rockets gave up 124 points to the Kevin Durant-less Warriors and 142 points to the pitiful Lakers. After scoring 78 points last night, Detroit should play better offensively tonight.

Despite the big loss last night, the Pistons still sit in the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. That being said, there are warning signs everywhere. They have lost three of four and the injury bug is biting hard. The umcoming schedule looks soft though, with consecutive games against Brooklyn, Chicago, and Charlotte on the horizon. Houston favored by 5.5 points at the time of this writing, a margin I think they cover easily. Even without Harden, the Rockets still have enough weapons. If the Pistons come out flat again, there will be a big discussion about the direction of this team.

(Featured image by Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

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