The Thunder, a day after a heart-breaking last second loss to the Orlando Magic, fly north to Detroit. There they will take on the Pistons, a middle of the road Eastern Conference team dealing with a couple of issues. OKC needs a win here to avoid a four game losing streak.
In a ho-hum 5-5 season so far, the Detroit Pistons have been remarkably inconsistent. All five losses were by 7 points or more, and all five wins were by 9 points or more. This inconsistency is somewhat reflected in the roster. Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, and Andre Drummond are all shooting 44% or more at roughly 11-14 shots a game. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith, the starting two guard and point guard, are shooting 38% or below at 11-12 shots a game. This, along with the league’s fifth worst three point percentage, can really hamper the Pistons against certain opponents. Teams like the Raptors and Clippers ran rickshaw over the Pistons because they are guard-dominant teams. On the other hand, bigger teams like Orlando, Milwaukee, and New York tend to struggle against the Pistons.
The bad news is that the Thunder are very much a big-oriented team. The good news is that Andre Drummond is likely doubtful for tonight. This leaves the Pistons with a combo of Aron Baynes and Boban Marjanovic. Both are capable centers, but won’t be able to rule the paint nearly as effectively as Drummond. I will say that Marjanovic is capable of shutting down Kanter. But with Drummond out and Reggie Jackson still having not debuted due to injury, it’s hard to see the Pistons getting the win.
As Serge Ibaka took Steven Adams to the baseline and pump-faked, I knew it was over. Serge Ibaka might not be a shot creator. But Serge is much faster than Steven Adams is. Adams was only guarding Ibaka as part of a switch. Ibaka used the opportunity to make a dribble move, and take a fake shot. This got Ibaka open. But more importantly, it allowed Ibaka to set his feet. As we’ve seen him do hundreds of times before on the same baseline, Ibaka uncorked a perfect jumper. The ball swished thru, putting the Magic up by two. Only 0.4 seconds remained on the clock. Billy Donovan tried to draw up a alley-oop play for Russ, but to no avail. The Magic had held on to their victory over the Thunder, and Ibaka proved that he is no pushover. As big of a Serge Ibaka fan as I am, I can’t say it made me feel sad.
Serge Ibaka came out so strong last night. I expected him to have a good night, but wow. Four blocks in the first quarter alone! Furthermore, Ibaka had eclipsed his career high with a couple of minutes to go in the third. When Serge is motivated and involved, he can be a really cunning player. And the Thunder’s general lack of speed and athleticism at power forward really allowed Ibaka’s skillset to shine.
Moving forward, I hope the Thunder take their much touted defensive versatility a little less seriously.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 115, Detroit Pistons 95.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!
Injuries: Reggie Bullock (Questionable), Andre Drummond (Doubtful), Reggie Jackson (Out), Cameron Payne (Out)
Time: 6:30 CST
Place: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, Michigan
TV: FSOK, FSDET