Not too long ago, the Detroit Pistons were looking like a formidable threat in the Eastern Conference. And they still could be in the future. But first, they need to end a five-game losing streak. The Pistons head to Charlotte tonight to take on the Hornets in a matchup of teams battling at the bottom of the playoff race. The Hornets open as 5.5 point favorites over the Pistons.
Since beating the Golden State Warriors at Little Caesar’s Arena, the Pistons have not won a game. But when looking at the schedule, it makes a little sense. Two losses to the Philadelphia 76ers, a loss to Oklahoma City, Milwaukee on the road, and against the New Orleans. Those are all playoff teams, with some having aspirations of making it to the NBA Finals. In the same breath, those are teams the Pistons aim to beat in the playoffs. The slow descent back to .500 ball is frustrating.
Detroit should get Blake Griffin back, who was given last game off for rest. He is averaging 35.6 minutes per game this season and could use the rest given his injury history. However, he has been everything the Pistons could have possible imagined and more. Without Griffin, Detroit reverts back into a mediocre team. The rest of the team is banged up too. Glen Robinson, Henry Ellenson, Ish Smith, and Reggie Bullock are all likely out tonight. The team’s depth, which was questioned coming into the season, will be tested once again tonight.
The last time the two teams faced off, Griffin had a terrible game en route to a 110-103 loss. He scored 10 points on 4-16 shooting, going 0-5 from behind the arc.
Charlotte has won two straight and sits just a half game behind Detroit in the Eastern Conference. If the Pistons are to pull off a much-needed win, it is going to start with stopping the point guards: Kemba Walker and Tony Parker.
Tony Parker? Yes, him too.
In the aforementioned 110-103 loss, Walker and Parker combined for 48 points on 20-35 shooting. In the Hornets last two wins, the point guard duo has been critical. Against Denver last Friday, Walker had 21 points and Parker had 19. Against the Knicks last Saturday, Walker had 25 points and Parker had 16.
Reggie Jackson is a turnstile defensively, “boasting” a 110.3 defensive rating. Smith is out with a groin injury. Jose Calderon is on the roster and is not viable. Stopping the point guards will be key in giving the Pistons a chance to win.
One thing to keep an eye on is Luke Kennard building on his last game. The young shooting guard scorched the Sixers last game with 28 points on 11/18 shooting. He was a sniper from 3-point land, shooting 5/8. He turned the ball over five times, but his scoring output is critical moving forward. The Pistons need additional shooting, but having Kennard grow as a legitimate deep range threat will increase the lethality of the offense.
Detroit needs a win. Charlotte has not been more than two games over .500 at any point this season. Both teams figure to be battling all season long for the playoffs and tonight’s game, while still early in the season, carries plenty of weight. The Hornets are at home, healthy, and have the drastically better point guard. Detroit will get Blake Griffin back and, hopefully, a sense of urgency.
(Featured image by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty)