Detroit's a team that's made its' first push to win in several years. They'd had enough of sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, so they picked up big name off-season acquisitions in Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, and Chauncey Billups. Coupled with the young twin towers of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, the team appeared, at least on paper, to be ripe for a Eastern Conference playoff run.
The results, so far, have been mixed. The team has been able to cruise over a tanking Boston team and a dysfunctional Washington team. But a key injury to Brandon Jennings left them short handed against Memphis, resulting in an overtime loss. Furthermore, they were put in their place by the defensively adept Indiana Pacers.
The Pistons problems mainly stem from a lack of discipline. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings have always been players with big questions about their game, and it's apparent that both of them aren't exactly in tune with what the Pistons want to do. Brandon Jennings will stop plays right in their tracks and hurl up bad shots, while Josh Smith can lose focus on defense. The Pistons also legitimately don't have a big man on the bench, so they're always forced into the dilemma of never seeing Drummond and Monroe play together or going small while they both rest. The end result is usually Mo Cheeks playing one of the two for nearly 40 minutes, leaving him noticeably tired at the end of the game.
Tonight, it will be interesting to see if the Thunder are capable of scoring against the Pistons front line. Through their first four games, they've had no perimeter shooting to speak of. Jeremy Lamb was able to rectify that problem a little bit against Dallas, but he's inconsistent and the starting five have been noticeably hesitant to let the three fly. Three point shooting was key in Indiana's victory over Detroit, and Detroit is a trap-heavy team. Thus, if the Thunder can't find that range, they'll have some issues.
Looking at the bench, the Thunder will hope for another strong showing. The Pistons likely won't go small, because they don't want to get into a gunfight with the Thunder's superstars. Instead, we'll likely see Jonas Jerebko or Gigi Datome paired with one of the starting bigs. Both Jerebko and Datome are perfectly capable of shooting the three and abusing Perry Jones in the post, so it's likely that Collison will get that assignment. Meanwhile, Steven Adams will get another chance to prove his mettle against the big time. On the perimeter, the Thunder will hope that Lamb and Jones continue to show flashes of their offensive brilliance, while Reggie Jackson continues to limit his turnovers and bad shots. They'll be matched up against Will Bynum, who's quickness and ability to work around screens should give them all they can handle.
In any case, I see tonight's game boiling down to the final minutes. If the Thunder can keep the pace fast and knock down a few threes, than this game should be easily theirs. But that's easier said than done, and the Pistons have a distinct advantage down low. I'll call it for the Thunder, but I'm really about 50/50 on this one.
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