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Archive → November, 2013

Maurice Cheeks breaks preseason pledge

Maurice Cheeks announced before the season he’d have no lead assistant, and at that point, Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News wrote:

When Cheeks was asked who would take over as acting coach in the event he were ever ejected from a game, Cheeks cooly replied, "I’m not getting ejected," before smiling and walking away.

Cheeks was ejected after getting two technical fouls in Detroit’s loss to the Hawks on Wednesday, and Maz Trakh took over head-coaching duties. I was a little disappointed Cheeks implemented a plan that involved keeping his cool and couldn’t stick with it, but I’m already over it.

I’m much more disappointed Cheeks hasn’t implemented a defensive scheme to lift the Pistons above last in defensive rating.

Pistons collapse late, fall to Hawks, 93-85

Detroit Pistons 85 FinalRecap | Box Score 93 Atlanta Hawks
Greg Monroe, PF 34 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -19The Hawks shot 70 percent in the restricted area, according to NBA.com/Stats. That largely falls on Monroe, who a lot of trouble bodying up Paul Millsap (19 points). On offense, Monroe was mostly ineffective. It was not a great game for Monroe.
Josh Smith, SF 36 MIN | 5-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -18In his return to Atlanta, Smith tried to do way too much. He took a lot of unnecessary shots early in the shot clock and missed all his shots outside of the paint, including all four of his 3-point attempts. His saving grace is usually defense, but tonight, he slipped against the Hawks’ frontcourt and let DeMarre Carroll out rebound him 12-6.
Andre Drummond, C 35 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +1He didn’t shoot very well tonight and regressed with his offensive role. We’ve seen him start to work a little bit from the elbow, but he didn’t do that at all tonight). Still, in a game where with few upsides, Drummond provided two with his rebounding and his steals.
Brandon Jennings, PG 41 MIN | 9-21 FG | 0-1 FT | 7 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 21 PTS | -16Jennings was very polarizing tonight, to say the least. He was all over the place, but he rebounded well, made 3-of-6 3-pointers and still managed six assists for a team that shot poorly. His biggest flaws were difficulty defending the pick and roll and taking care of the ball. He can’t keep that up.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 23 MIN | 1-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -8Despite his relatively effective defensive performance — probably the best in the Pistons’ backcourt — he was abysmal on offense, to say the least. After getting inside and building confidence in previous games, Caldwell-Pope took six of his nine shots from beyond the arc tonight and missed them all.
Josh Harrellson, PF 6 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -3Harrellson played only six minutes. He made a 3-pointer and blocked a shot, but he didn’t play enough for me to give him a real grade out there.
Luigi Datome, SF 11 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +12Datome finally logged legitimate minutes, and he looked pretty good. He shot a bit above average from the field (his shot is so pretty) in only four attempts, but the most impressive part about his game tonight were his defensive efforts. He was matched up with Paul Millsap on multiple occasions when Cheeks ran a small lineup, and despite my predictions, he played very well against him.
Kyle Singler, SF 22 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +3Singler played much differently than usual. He defended well, shot well in the paint and grabbed seven boards. In his 22 minutes played — often as a power forward with Siva, Stuckey, Datome and Drummond — he stepped up.
Peyton Siva, PG 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +11Siva played well in his six minutes played, getting a rebound, assist and two steals, but didn’t shoot once and didn’t make an impact on defense. He didn’t play long enough to get a legitimate grade tonight.
Rodney Stuckey, SG 26 MIN | 7-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 18 PTS | -3Stuckey played well tonight. He shut down Korver on defense, scored a very efficient 18 points and knocked down all of his free throws. From an individual standpoint, there is not much more one could have asked out of Stuckey tonight.
Maurice Cheeks
Cheeks ran some really weird lineups tonight. Siva-Stuckey-Singler-Datome-Drummond worked, although it admittedly wasn’t the best lineup to run against this Hawks team. My biggest problem with Cheeks’ coaching tonight was his refusal to try to talk to Josh Smith out of taking 15 shots when he was playing poorly. Oh, he also got thrown out of the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Three Things We Saw

  1. The Pistons are not good at closing games. The game was close for a good 41 minutes, and then they fell apart and eventually lost by eight points.
  2. This team, despite their best efforts, can’t guard the pick and roll at all. It’s such a simple offensive scheme; one would think it’s an easy fix. Mo Cheeks needs to do something about that particular aspect of defense.
  3. The Pistons shot 23.5 percent on mid-range jumpers tonight. It was probably a combination of Monroe testing his shooting limits and Smith/Jennings chucking early in the shot clock, but nonetheless, it’s an issue.

PistonPowered Live: Pistons at Hawks

We’ll have a live show at halftime, and in the meantime, use this thread as an open thread for the game.

Tonight’s guest for the show is HawksHoop.com blogger Cole Patty (@ColePatty).

Pistons Hold Off Late Knicks Run To Pick Up Needed Win

New York Knicks 86 Final

Recap | Box Score

92 Detroit Pistons
Greg Monroe, PF 36 MIN | 6-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 16 PTS | +10Monroe’s offense was desperately needed int his one, but he didn’t assert himself often enough and his D was the worst I’ve seen from him this year. Bargnani went off on him early and whenever Anthony had success, it was typically because he was able to force Monroe to switch onto him.
Josh Smith, SF 41 MIN | 7-19 FG | 3-5 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +9Smith was once again way too eager to throw up long jumpers, but he shut down Carmelo and that was exactly what Detroit needed.
Andre Drummond, C 36 MIN | 6-7 FG | 1-5 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | -6Drummond is starting to look like the most consistent player in the league. His play every night is the same. On offense, the Pistons don’t run anything for him but he regularly bails them out with good positioning to catch lobs or beautiful putbacks. On defense, he fouls way too much and doesn’t yet have the best instincts, but he hustles and comes up with several big plays. Chalk him up as pretty much a nightly 12 and 12 while hitting about 80% of his field goals and 20% of his free throes.
Brandon Jennings, PG 27 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +3Jennings missed a lot of time in this one because he was ailing. If Bynum were available, he should have just sat out the game. Jennings was invisible for most of his playing time. Get better soon Jennings, I don’t love your trigger-happiness but Detroit really could have used your floor spacing while the Knicks stormed back from 15 down to a 5 point gap.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG 29 MIN | 4-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +12Pope’s shot looked a lot better in this one even if he still only hit 4 of 12. The next step is to work on his shot selection. He took several shots from waaaay beyond the arc or just inside of it. Those are low value attempts. His man-to-man D wasn’t as good as it’s been in other games either, but his help and rotations were crisp. Pope looks like he may take a while to put everything together, but he has a lot of very valuable skills.
Luigi Datome, SF 5 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | -3For his couple minutes, Datome looked exactly as I expected going into the season. If he could extrapolate those stats to 20-25 mpg, Datome could be a very valuable contributor in Detroit this year. But that defense was awful and there was no way he was going to get 20-25 minutes.
Kyle Singler, SF 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +3Singler didn’t produce much, but I loved his activity around loose balls. And he did a very good job on defense, especially when he rotated onto Melo.
Peyton Siva, PG 11 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +4Siva didn’t look talented enough to be on an NBA court, he was sloppy, and he fought with teammates for boards. If he wants to ever carve out a niche in the league, Siva will have to play some much headier ball because I don’t see anything else he has to offer.
Rodney Stuckey, SG 31 MIN | 8-14 FG | 5-5 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | -2Make no mistake, I don’t want to see Stuckey shoot 20 footers with 4 hands in his face ever again. But against New York, he hit multiple such shots. His offense and Smith’s defense are the reasons Detroit got a win. Not bad for a guy who has taken as much flak in recent years as Stuckey has had to absorb.
Maurice Cheeks
I still don’t like his rotations, but Cheeks made a very smart move putting in Singler for Drummond at the end. No need to allow a hack-a-Drummond strategy to ever even be an option. Given how few shooters the Pistons employ, Cheeks needs to drum it into their heads that,w hen on the floor, they need to be beyond the 3 point arc unless they are actively carrying out a play. The spacing down the stretch was abysmal.

One Thing We Saw

  1. There were no egregious calls, but nearly everything questionable went the Pistons’ way. They were fortunate to come up with this win. But wins often involve a bit of fortune. They’ll take it: 4-6 sounds way better than 3-7.

PistonPowered Live: Pistons vs. Knicks

Tonight’s guest on PistonPowered Live for the Pistons-Lakers game is knickerblogger.net blogger Robert Silverman (@BobSaietta), who tells me he will wear a party dress for the segment. Tune in at halftime to watch the show!

Pistons host Knicks

Essentials

  • Teams: New York Knicks (3-6) at Detroit Pistons (3-6)
  • Date: November 19, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Word on the street is that James Dolan believes his beloved New York Knicks have what it takes to win the championship this season. That statement probably prompted a two-word response from every other NBA team fan base: Deez Knicks?!?

It’s not that New York cannot win the title, but rather that the roster is incredibly flawed. Consequently, the path to the chip will require a lot of good fortune and perhaps a slight shakeup of the current parts.

Any discussion centered around the Knickerbockers ultimately revolves around Carmelo Anthony. He is one of the most gifted scorers in the league and also, he presents matchup problems for opponents at the power forward spot.

Indeed, most of the 4s are simply not equipped to deal with Melo’s first step and his quickness. In addition, Mike Woodson is currently pairing him with Andrea Bargnani at center while Tyson Chandler is on the mend (out four-to-six weeks with a knee injury).

That gives Anthony room to operate down in the box and torture opponents. And yet, despite his scoring prowess, the Knicks are a subpar offensive unit. They rank in the league’s bottom half in points per 100 possessions and unsurprisingly, this is where the roster comes into the question.

New York has a lot of shot takers on board. Notice I did not say shot makers. The Knicks operate their offense by running pick-and-rolls to create matchups they can attack in isolation fashion. They will try to force switches and if that does not occur, they will try to find the open player and have him attack the rotating defender.

Deception and misdirection are rarely part of Woodson’s sets. Instead, they have a multitude of players that lack discipline on this side of the ball. Hence, guys are more than happy to take the first semi-open look that comes across them (J.R. Smith alert!).

The most consistent thing resembling a motion offense occurs on the weak side of the floor when Anthony is facing up his man from the low-post area. They do this to simply prevent defenders from swarming Melo and taking the ball out of his hands.

Much has been made about Anthony’s high-volume shooting (it’s reached the point that it has made him an afterthought behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant), but this current iteration of the Knicks are seemingly doomed without their leading scorer.

The inability to run a decent offense coupled with the lack of disciplined players make his presence practically mandatory. Consider this: with Anthony off the floor so far this season, the Knicks’ scoring differential is minus-25.2 per 48 minutes according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.

That’s an amazing stat when we take into account the fact that NY is sub-.500 right now. If Melo battles foul trouble or perhaps an ankle sprain that keeps him out of the lineup for a few chunks of a game, his teammates might get burned badly.

Part of that stems from the fact the defense is actually worse off than what is currently a mediocre offense. These guys get hung up on screens far too easily and lose track of players if the ball gets swung from one side to the next. Just so we’re clear, the guys they stop paying attention to are often lethal shooters like Kyle Korver.

Put those facts together and well, you have a defense that registers in the Association’s bottom third.

Make no mistake though, this team has talent. They can get hot in a hurry and find the right balance of chemistry on any given night. From there, they usually look like a solid contender, especially if Anthony has it rolling.

With that said, there are just too many combustible personalities (J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Metta World Peace) on this roster to consistently know what to expect from the Knicks. The discipline comes and goes and as a result, so do the wins.

Read about the Knicks

Knickerblogger.

Andre Drummond: Glue guy extraordinaire

If you ask Andre Drummond his role on the Detroit Pistons, his answer may come as a surprise.

The 6-foot-11 center doesn’t look at himself as the up-and-coming star that many see. Actually, he doesn’t even look at himself as the top dog for the Pistons.

“I’m just the glue guy, you know,” he said in Orlando last month. “I just grab rebounds, block shots, dunk everything I get my hands on. So it’s just fun … I just do all the small things, the things that will help win basketball games.”

Whether you want to buy that or not — and for what it’s worth, I think he truly believes that — Drummond’s glue-guy play has been this team’s lone constant.

He’s still learning how to play basketball, but he’s doing so while casually gobbling up 12 boards and adding 12 dunk-filled points a night. His offensive game is still effortless yet short on tools, but when you really can rebound and, of course, dunk everything you get your hands on, who needs a low-post game right now?

The common idea is that young big men take a little more seasoning than young guards, and maybe that’s true. Drummond’s good traits — effort, rebounding, help defense — really make up for his obvious faults.

He really is far from being a polished, finished product, but he still averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds during the Pistons’ west-coast trip. That feat is made more impressive considering his opposing bigs included DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. Not a bad group to out-play, right?

Obviously that kind of sustained success is great to see, but there are still going to be the nights like he had in losses to Oklahoma City and Indiana — combining for 10 points and 12 rebounds.

That’s life in the NBA. You hope for mostly good-to-great nights while having a short memory when it comes to the inevitable bad ones.

Drummond knows his limitations, and that’s good. He’s self-aware, knowing he’s young and knowing he’s probably one of the fastest and most athletic big men in the league. He said it himself, “It’s been said since I got here. I can do certain things that most players can’t do.”

It’s too bad that isn’t enough to make up for his team’s faults. For the Pistons to shake off their slow start, he and the rest of his frontcourt mates, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, need to find a way to make all of their roles jive on both ends of the floor.

“We all can pretty much do the same thing,” Drummond said. “Josh obviously shoots the 3, but can bring the ball up the floor and create for other players. Greg, passing the ball, he can create for people off the block. Same with me, I can create for people off the block as well.”

Nailed it.

Creating for others, that’s the one commonality. Aside from the nights where Smith has fully embraced his (hopefully) destined point-forward role, these big men aren’t really used to create for others.

Monroe is a gifted passer, and that’s something the Pistons haven’t exploited enough this season. Smith is at his best when he’s slicing into the lane and looking for others and cutting himself — he sometimes appears to forget that.

And for all of the cute, cosmetic statistics that Brandon Jennings has piled up this season, it just doesn’t feel like he’s thinking ahead when he comes barreling around a screen from one of those three big men. Seriously, if Will Bynum can occupy an entire defense as he runs off a screen-and-roll from Drummond, so should Jennings.

It’s November, though. Nothing in sports is decided in the first month, and this team hasn’t even had a preseason to work together. It’s not time to panic.

Maybe these first 10 games of the year have served as a de facto preseason. I’m not even going to bore you with all of the semantics of what the Pistons’ big core lacks, but it’s not something Drummond’s oblivious of either.

“Is it tough trying to figure out our spots? Yeah, absolutely, I mean we’ve never played with each other before,” he said. “Even for me and Greg, this is our first time really playing together at the same time for an extended period of time.”

Drummond has a good head on his shoulders. He’s completely erased all the commitment and effort doubts that haunted him during the pre-Draft process.

He’s proven to be the exact opposite of what scared off eight other teams in June of 2012.

The common misconception is that, if you’re young and good, you’d better make the jump to greatness ASAP. That’s unfair. It just isn’t always the case. Not every bright youngster is going to make the leap to NBA stardom before he can make the leap to the stool at the hotel bar. Players develop at different rates.

Even if Drummond’s role for this season does end up as simple as being the glue guy, that’s still a pretty darn good role — especially when the kid’s still getting comfortable.

“Last year, it was tough for me when I first got here, I didn’t really know what my role was, what I needed to do,” Drummond said. “That’s with anything, anything you step into new. You just got to figure yourself out. So, it took me a little bit to figure it out. Now that I have a place and know my role, I’m excited for what’s up and coming.”

And so is everyone else.

Pistons’ problems defending the pick-and-roll

At minimum, Pistons fans thought they could expect an improved defense this season.

Josh Smith is a defensive juggernaut. Brandon Jennings is not worse than Brandon Knight. Andre Drummond is a year older. And so on.

Most experts thought the line-up of three big men without range would cause a poor offense for which the defense would have to compensate. Turns out, the Pistons rank 10th in offensive rating at 103.2 and dead last in defensive rating at 106.4. (via www.nba.com)

What’s the biggest source of Detroit’s defensive woes?

According to MySynergySports, the Pistons allow 1.24 points per play pick-and-rolls when the roll man finishes the play – a rather high number for a common play. After reviewing every play so far this season of that type, I found that exemplifies the problems rather well. The play took place against the Indiana Pacers in the middle of the first quarter.

PIST1

The play commences with a hand-off from Roy Hibbert to C. J. Watson on the left wing. The Pacers had already run a play before, which is why Jennings is a bit out of position. Josh Smith is occupied with guarding Paul George. Greg Monroe is attached to David West, and Chauncey Billups has an eye on Lance Stephenson in the corner.

PIST2

After the hand-off, West sets a sort of drag screen for Watson. West quickly moves away and pops out to the left elbow. Meanwhile, Drummond is sagging down into the lane to cut off the passing lane to Hibbert. This is unnecessary, and due to his young age, Drummond is not aware that at Greg Monroe  is in better position. In this moment, even Smith is in position to intervene a pass.

PIST3

The consequences of Drummond’s bad positioning become apparent. Jennings is still out of position, but Watson is not the primary threat in this play, anyway. He is an excellent back-up point guard who knows where to find his more efficient teammates – in this case, West. Detroit’s communication on switches does not  work  in a lot of situations. As you can see, Drummond is still sagging, Monroe points with his finger at West, because now Drummond is neither in position to cover Hibbert down low, nor is he anywhere near West. The ideal spot for him to stand would be three feet closer to the free throw line so he could prevent a pass to West. Had he realized Monroe’s better positioning before, he would not be in this dilemma.

PIST5

Due to his lack of defensive awareness Drummond starts moving only once West has caught the ball. For all his physical gifts, this is where Drummond still has lots of room to improve.  In this play, Drummond concedes a wide open jumper to West, which missed. Most of the time, however, capable big men like West will knock this one down, and the statistics appear to prove this.

To contrast this, let’s look at an elite defense  the Pistons are often advised to model themselves after, the Memphis Grizzlies. This is a similar situation last season, when Memphis gave up only 0.95 points per play on such pick-and-rolls finished by the ball handler, .29 points per play better than the Pistons so far this year.

MEM3

As you can see, the Grizzlies find themselves in a similar situation. What you cannot see, Randolph already has his eyes on West, and is therefore prepared to run over in order to contest the shot. He has sagged because Gasol is a bit out of the picture in this one, but Randolph knows his job, while Drummond appeared completely lost.

MEM4

As soon as George Hill passes the ball to West, Randolph dashes towards the Pacers forward. Randolph is not nearly as gifted athletically as Drummond, but he is a smart defender, and he gets to West in time for him to opt for a pump fake. West puts it on the floor, and eventually takes a rather contested jumper, which is a miss.

Drummond obviously has the agility and athleticism to be a good pick-and-roll defender. But he often gets lost like he did on the previously examined play. Or he shows to hard on screens, and then he needs a tenth of a second too long to locate his man who then is wide open. It’s not for a lack of trying, this is all pretty tough to learn, therefore very few big men master it like Gasol, or Randolph, two of the smartest big men in the league. Once Drummond learns to make quicker rotations, combined with his physical skills, the Pistons might have an All-Defensive team center.

Brandon Jennings heeds Joe Dumars’ advice: Pass less

David Mayo of MLive:

However, in a conversation with Joe Dumars a few days ago, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations apparently told Jennings a little selfishness could be a good thing for a point guard, despite the latter’s promise to get his new teammates more involved offensively than during his shoot-first days with the Milwaukee Bucks.

"That’s one thing me and Joe talked about," Jennings said. "That was my first problem in the beginning, when I came back — trying to please everybody, trying to make sure I was being a pass-first point guard instead of just playing basketball. But like tonight, I’ve just got to play basketball. If the shot’s there, I’m going to take it. If not, then I’m going to pass it."

You can read my thoughts at ProBasketballTalk.

3-on-3: Brandon Jennings, J.R. Smith and the Pistons hosting the Knicks

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.

1. Well, we won’t be seeing any of J.R. Smith’s little brother Chris against the Pistons, but we will see Brandon Jennings and Smith. Is it fair to expect any fireworks? 

Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered: Not between Smith and Jennings. The NBA is full of faux tough guys. Neither Jennings nor Smith are even anywhere close to the phony Kevin Garnetts or Matt Barnes of the league, but this was all talk — it always is. What I do think will happen — and it’s going to be the worst thing in the world to watch — is a “I’M GONNA SHOW YOU!” mentality from both guys. Jennings and Smith already take a million shots anyway, so why not shoot even more when you’re trying to “get in them pockets” as Smith poetically coined during this week’s beef.

Tim Thielke, PistonPowered: Expect fireworks? No. But don’t be too shocked if they happen. Smith is one of the most unpredictable people in the NBA.

David Vertsberger, KnickerBlogger:  I would expect some trash-talking, but nothing more. I just don’t think it’s that serious and both of these players have a lot to lose in really creating a stir. But if anyone does start something bigger, it’ll be Smith considering he was the “victim” of this whole silly situation and he’s had a reputation of being… well, dumb.

2. The Knicks have been just as dysfunctional as the Pistons early on. What’s more likely — a Pistons’ defensive revival or a coming-out party for the Knicks’ stagnant offense?

Brady Fredericksen: The Knicks are back, baby. I think the Pistons are going to have a field day in the paint against the Knicks intimidating front court of Andrea Bargnani and Kenyon Martin, but similar to Sunday’s game against the Lakers, you have to defend well — IE: not allow teams to rain down 3-pointers — to make those easy scoring opportunities matter. I do find the likely small-ball matchup of Josh Smith versus Carmelo Anthony interesting. That’s a situation where, if the Pistons do win this game, they’ll have to win that matchup.

Tim Thielke: Offense drives narratives, so I’ll have to say the latter. For a low-scoring game to be chalked up to great defense rather than lousy offense, the great defense has to be expected going into the game. That won’t be the case for this tilt.

David Vertsberger: It’s a tough question when you consider that both of these teams’ problems on those ends weren’t expected and seem easy enough to solve. I’d go with Detroit’s defensive revival because of how new a good part of their lineups are and how blind Mike Woodson has looked early on. The Knicks were terrific year-round last year on offense, but a lot of that happened while it being stagnant.

3. One of these teams has to win this game, so who walks away victorious and why?

Brady Fredericksen: I don’t want to sound grim (but self-deprecating? of course), however, the Knicks are going literally shoot the Pistons out of this game faster than an angry saloon owner in an old-timey country western movie. That’s how awful the Pistons’ defense has been, not to mention how poorly they played against the Knicks last year — losing by an average of 15 points while allowing the Knicks to shoot (roughly) 110 percent from the field.

Tim Thielke: This could largely come down to Smith’s defense of Anthony. That should be a matchup his strengths are well suited to, but he hasn’t done well defending out of the paint so far this season. On the other hand, let’s see the Knicks pack the paint with ferocious interior defenders like Anthony and Bargnani. I’ll pick the Pistons because their scoring differential has been two points better so far.

David Vertsberger: It’s got to be the Knicks to me because of their super-spacing starting five they’ve played with Tyson Chandler out with injury. The Pistons’ bigs are not going to have a fun time guarding the perimeter for 48 minutes. One thing that worries me is Detroit’s transition game however, as the Knicks have been porous defending the fast break. Should be either a fun or brutal game, nonetheless.