The Detroit Pistons (2-4) will face their second back-to-back tonight as they will welcome Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets (2-3) to Little Caesars Arena. The Nets will enter Detroit riding a tight 123-116 win over the Houston Rockets last night that saw five Brooklyn players score 15+, including an impressive 27 and 12 line from forward Taurean Prince.
For this preview, Alex Schiffer, the Brooklyn Nets beat writer for The Athletic, joined me for a conversation to give a unique perspective on tonight’s matchup and the current Pistons’ roster situation.
Q & A WITH SCHIFFER
DS: What are you looking forward to seeing in this matchup?
AS: Andre Drummond vs. the Nets bigs. The Nets have rotated Jarrett Allen and Deandre Jordan in through the early part of the season, with neither guy really outplaying the other. Does that change on Saturday or does Drummond control the game down low?
DS: If you were head coach, what would the starting five be for the Pistons (with Blake and Reggie on the sideline)?
AS: Tough question. I’d go Drummond/Kennard/Morris/Snell/ and maybe Derrick Rose to give the Pistons more experience against the Nets deep backcourt.
DS: With Drummond expecting to decline his player option and Reggie Jackson on an expiring contract, what direction would you take with this franchise? Pay Drummond the max or try and retool around Blake Griffin? Or trade everyone, including Griffin at the deadline?
AS: Another tough question. I think the draft assets they can get back for both are enticing and would really set Detroit up well for the future. But with the East wide open, I’d say go for it. Maybe the team makes a surprise playoff run and thinks it can compete going forward. I’d say keep everyone and go from there.
DS: Where do you see the Pistons finishing in the East this year? What do you think their ceiling is?
AS: I think they’re a playoff team for sure, but it’s too early to say where. Most likely a lower seed. I think that’s around their ceiling with the top of the East appearing to be some combination of Toronto, Milwaukee, Boston and Philadelphia.
SCHANDEVEL AND SCHIFFER’S TAKES FOR THE GAME
The Nets Will Win if:
AS: They replicate Friday’s performance against the Rockets. Houston is a deeper team than Detroit and has far more star power and the Nets had great performances from Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince and Garrett Temple. If the Nets play to their offensive ceiling then they should leave Detroit with a win.
The Pistons Will Win if:
DS: They can actually find a groove in the first unit and lower turnovers. The shift to the starting lineup has not exactly worked out for Luke Kennard as he has struggled to find his stride along Tim Frazier. Casey had the right idea by throwing an offensive threat in the starting five, but it could be time to try Langston at the two and keep Kennard consistently with Rose. Galloway may not be the right answer to fill the offensive void, but Detroit fans already know how special of a 1-2 combo Kennard and Rose can be in this league. Although Detroit is averaging 18.8 turnovers a game, Brooklyn grades worse with a 19.5 mark. If Detroit can take advantage and win the turnover battle, that could be the deciding factor.
The Nets Will Lose if:
AS: Their defensive woes continue and the avoidable turnovers they commit continue to linger. Brooklyn has had a lot of sloppy play early in the season that has led to easy points off turnovers for the opposing team. Dwayne Casey is too good of a coach to hand over points to.
The Pistons Will Lose if:
DS: They come out dryer than a dad’s jokes at thanksgiving and quickly fall behind to a team with 2016 Piston playoff killer Kyrie Irving. We saw a lot of tired legs in Detroit’s first B2B against the Hawks, so it will be interesting to see how they look tonight. It is a given fact that Detroit will need a big game out of Drummond to compete, but if the defense is as porous as it has been to start the season, there is really no way the Pistons come out victorious.
This game could really go in either direction. The first seven minutes will be very telling for the Pistons as they will less likely be able to play the come-from-behind game against a Brooklyn team that is feeling nice after defeating Harden and Westbrook at home. Casey should take a long look at the No. 2 spot as someone will have to “attempt” to stay with Irving. Maybe Bruce can turn in a strong defensive game that gets him going and allows Kennard to find his groove off the bench. Maybe tonight is the night to let Langston start and see what happens. No matter what Casey decides, Irving will get his.
There is only one certainty through all of this, the Pistons are deeply missing Reggie and Blake. It’s just not fun without them.
Featured Image: Julie Jacobson/Associated Press