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Category → Game Preview

Pistons play finale in OKC

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (29-52) at Oklahoma City Thunder (58-23)
  • Date: April 16, 2014
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Game 82 folks.

This failed Detroit Pistons season ends tonight. All the free-agency plans from last season have led to…the lottery. The franchise will have to rebuild once more and try to field a competitive team this summer.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before any of this takes place, there’s the OKC Thunder to deal with.

It appears as though the league will crown Kevin Durant as the league MVP at some point during the spring, and it will be a well-deserved award. Over the course of the year, KD has averaged 31.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 50.4 percent shooting from the floor and 39.3 percent from long range.

The ridiculous efficiency prompted a post where yours truly openly wondered whether Durant is the greatest perimeter scorer since Michael Jordan. Durant is certainly in that stratosphere as he gets ready to secure his fourth scoring title in seven seasons.

For those worried that head coach Scott Brooks might rest his superstar tonight, it appears as though it won’t be the case per ESPN.com. The Thunder want the No. 2 seed, and a victory tonight clinches it.

In the event OKC were to lose, and that the Los Angeles Clippers defeat the Portland Trail Blazers, LAC would get the second seed by virtue of a superior conference record.

Doc Rivers has already announced his plans to sit Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick in the finale, which gives OKC the inside track. Still, the Thunder’s best shot is to determine their own fate with a win.

Hence, we should get a good game tonight.

Enjoy 82.

Read about the Thunder

Daily Thunder

Pistons host Raptors

Essentials

  • Teams: Toronto Raptors (46-33) at Detroit Pistons (29-51)
  • Date: April 13, 2014
  • Time: 3:30 p.m.
  • Television: NBATV, FSD

What to look for

Over at Raptors Republic, I answered a few questions about the Detroit Pistons, and Tamberlyn Richardson went on to preview the contest based on some of the analysis I provided. Here’s an excerpt:

“Smith is an underrated passer and solid defensive player when engaged, but Pistons fans will find that hard to believe since they’ve only seen that player sporadically. I don’t expect any change from Jennings going forward, but Smith can certainly be salvageable depending on the team’s philosophy and scheme next season.”

Feel free to give it a read.

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Pistons at Bulls preview

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (29-50) at Chicago Bulls (46-32)
  • Date: April 11, 2014
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Chicago Bulls are currently seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, and they have an opportunity to climb to the third spot.

The Bulls have four games left on the regular-season calendar, and this is how they shake out: Detroit Pistons (tonight), at New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and at Charlotte Bobcats.

They currently have an identical record to the Toronto Raptors who currently own the tiebreaker. Hence, they need to finish with a superior record than Toronto to get the third seed.

The Raptors have won four in a row and end the season against sub-.500 opponents: Knicks, at Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and at Knicks.

Thus, these games still count for these playoff teams. Still, I’m intrigued at the idea that perhaps Chicago might want to remain seeded fourth. The Miami Heat have owned them in the postseason since the 2011 playoffs, and a third seed might mean a second-round date with the defending champions.

On the flip side, if all things remain equal and the Bulls advance to the second round, they will find the Indiana Pacers waiting for them. Given the Pacers’ struggle with respect to scoring, it might be the best matchup for the Bulls.

Hence, tonight’s matchup has actual meaning for Chicago.

Read about the Bulls

Bulls by the Horns

Pistons at Cavs: Blueprint for failure?

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (29-49) at Cleveland Cavaliers (31-47)
  • Date: April 9, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

With the end of the season approaching, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in a bit of turmoil.

It’s not just the idea that the Cavs will miss the playoffs once more, or that the franchise appears to lack a plan, rather, everything is simply a flaming mess.

Cleveland has failed in building a culture conducive to winning. They’ve imported draft pick after draft pick, but they’ve hardly produced wins. The team hasn’t had an identity since LeBron James uttered the words “South Beach” on national television, and that doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future.

Ownership finally decided they wanted a successful program this season, and they acquired a coupled of veterans to make it happen. They brought back Mike Brown and then signed Andrew Bynum.

When Bynum failed, the Cavs jettisoned him and brought in Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes at mid-season. The veterans were supposed to finally help steer the team back into the playoffs after a four-year drought, but that backfired.

By trading for Deng and Hawes, it’s as if the Cavs had signed Jason Statham and asked him to play in a romantic comedy. In retrospect, Cleveland was doomed prior to the start of the season.

And yet, that wasn’t rock bottom.

Cavs the Blog, the ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog for the Cavaliers, conducted a Q&A session with Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com where Windhorst questioned Kyrie Irving’s maturity.

What’s more, in that same piece, Windhorst made it clear he did not believe Irving was a max-contract player — I actually agree — and that he had no interest in staying with the Cavs.

This prompted Irving to lash out at the media on Twitter. Cleveland has been a disaster since the 2010 summer, and it only appears as though things are going to get worse.

Cleveland has suffered the same fate as Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises, except there isn’t a caped crusader in sight to rescue the city. For whatever reason, management figured Deng could help with that role in some way, shape or form, but instead, the Cavs did this to him:

Another offseason approaches, and well, it looks as though the path Cleveland has taken for the past four years is right there waiting for them once more. Thus, tonight’s game with the Detroit Pistons probably won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.

Normally, late-season games for young players on losing teams serve as reps to build up a program, which eventually leads to the playoffs. But we’ve seen this story repeat itself over and over again through the years, and the result never changes.

Once upon a time, Cavs versus Pistons was a marquee game on the NBA calendar. That has since become a distant memory, as both franchises have faded. Detroit’s future appears to be brighter, but that’s only because Cleveland has turned failure into an art form.

Read about the Cavs

Cavs the Blog

Pistons at Hawks

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (28-49) at Atlanta Hawks (34-42)
  • Date: April 8, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket

What to look for

The Atlanta Hawks’ playoff push will resume tonight when they host the Detroit Pistons.

The Hawks closed out March with a six-game losing streak, but they rebounded by winning three of their past four contests. The consecutive defeats came to a halt against the Philadelphia 76ers, and the other victories occurred against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.

The win in Indiana was the most surprising one given that it was a blowout on the road. Indeed, the Hawks led that contest 55-23 at halftime in a game that was never close.

The New York Knicks are trailing the Hawks in the playoff race, and are three games behind in the loss column. Atlanta appears to have the inside track by virtue of their superior record and weak schedule.

The Hawks have six games left to play, and half of them are against teams with sub-.500 records.

On the other hand, the Knicks have four contests left in the season, and they are all against plus-.500 squads. The list of opponents reads as such: at Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, at Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors.

Hence, it appears as though Atlanta is headed to the postseason. Granted, the Hawks still need to post wins to ensure that becomes a reality, and the final stretch starts tonight.

With six games scheduled over the next eight days, it’s entirely possible that tonight’s contest versus Detroit will be the easiest game on the schedule (yes, even easier than the last game of the year at the Milwaukee Bucks, because it will be the end of a relatively tough eight-day stretch).

The Pistons simply want to get the season over with and start the rebuild…again. Two teams heading in different directions, and the one with the best outlook is Josh Smith’s former team. Go figure.

Read about the Hawks

Hawks Hoop

Celtics at Pistons: tonight’s best player is…

Essentials

  • Teams: Boston Celtics (23-53) at Detroit Pistons (27-49)
  • Date: April 5, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD+

What to look for

If a basketball game happens, but no one is there to see it, does it actually occur? We might find out tonight.

The Detroit Pistons will host the Boston Celtics tonight in the lone NBA contest featuring teams with losing records. Normally, that might be enough to get people to turn their attention to other ball clubs, but this night might offer more distractions than usual.

The Final Four will be played this evening, and it’s safe to say that many will at least have an eye on the college games. For those of you willing to bypass the NCAA in favor of Detroit and Boston, I offer an interesting way to look at tonight’s contest.

Ask yourself this when observing the game: which player is the best on the floor?

Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe could potentially be the answers to this question, but that’s a little too easy. Instead, we want to focus on four specific players that will be part of interesting head-to-head matchups.

Here are your candidates:

  • Brandon Jennings
  • Jeff Green
  • Josh Smith
  • Rajon Rondo

Rondo and Jennings have very different roles, but they will get opportunities to go at each other and run their respective teams. Based strictly off history, Rondo is the superior talent.

However, an argument could be made that Jennings has been better this season. Jennings has been a volume shooter more than anything, and he’s also been a decent setup man, which is on par with his entire career.

Rondo on the other hand hasn’t consistently demonstrated great synergy with his teammates, and he’s had trouble converting shots. Jennings and Rondo are both sub-40 percent shooters from the field, but Detroit’s point guard is putting up more points on average.

If asked last season which player was destined for a better 2013-14 season regardless of the surrounding pieces, most likely would have picked Rondo. And yet, the answer today is Jennings.

As far as the wings are concerned, a similar conversation comes up. Smith and Green share the same position, but have vastly different games. Green is supposedly a multi-faceted player capable of occupying both forward spots.

Early in his career, many could tell that Green had a little Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom in his game. Indeed, he offered athleticism, defense and even a bit of ball-handling.

Interestingly enough, that comparison is actually more accurate than many would probably want to accept. Green is a solid supporting player, but not someone that can be entrusted with carrying a huge offensive load on a nightly basis.

He struggles to create shots and isn’t much of a playmaker. Conversely, Smith has always had All-Star talent. Like Green, he offers comparable gifts to other hybrid forwards, but he’s left fans underwhelmed this season.

These four players make for an interesting game tonight, because either one of them could potentially dominate the contest and serve us with reminders about their talents.

They all tease us with a combination of developing skills that get athletes paid in this sport. In related news, each of them earns $8 million or more annually. Based strictly off the events of 2013-14, can we trust any of them for an 82-game schedule? Probably not.

But for a random night towards the end of the season? Absolutely.

I have Jennings as the best player tonight, and what’s your pick? Let us know in the comments.

Read about the Celtics

Celtics Hub

 

Detroit Pistons visit Brooklyn Nets

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (27-48) at Indiana Pacers (52-33)
  • Date: April 2, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Nets have unquestionably been a vastly superior team to the Pistons this season. Admittedly, they started the season by vying for the most disappointing team in the league with a 10-21 record. But in spite of the bumpy beginning, they have rebounded quite nicely by going 30-13 since then. They look fairly likely to finish with the fifth seed in the East.

The Pistons have gone the other way. They had a mildly disappointing 14-16 start to the season but have completely fallen off the rails since then, going 13-32. They are a near lock to finish with the eleventh seed in the East.

However, Detroit has improbably seemed to have Brooklyn’s number this season. So far, they are a perfect 3-0 with only one of those games being close. Tonight, the Nets try to avoid joining the Sacramento Kings as the only teams to be swept this year by a depressing Pistons squad.

This game should pit both teams’ strengths against the other’s weaknesses. Brooklyn is 28th in the league in defensive rebounding while Detroit is far and away the league’s best offensive rebounding team. Second place Sacramento is closer to 15th place Oklahoma City than to Detroit. Meanwhile, Detroit’s bottom ten three-point defense (both in percentage and overall makes) gets to match up against Brooklyn’s top ten three-point offense.

For the Pistons, watch for Drummond to dominate tonight. The Nets’ big men (Blatche, Plumlee, and Teletovic) should be overmatched against him. On Brooklyn’s side, Joe Johnson has been tearing it up ever since an entirely undeserved all-star berth. He has been averaging 18 points, 4 boards, and 3 dimes with 49/44/85 shooting splits over his past 23 games. We’ll see if any of Singler, Stuckey, or Caldwell-Pope can slow him down.

Much as the Pistons have suffered from serious defensive woes this year, the Nets are the sort of plodding, methodical team they should match up well against, as long as they can cover the three-point arc. And while the Nets can clog the lane against Detroit just like every other team does, they don’t have anyone to actually dissuade Pistons from attempting to score near the rim.

I am normally a strong believer in flukes when it comes to small samples like a 3-0 record, but this is actually a good match-up for Detroit. Still count on Brooklyn to come out with the win, but the Pistons could scare both their own fans and Brooklyn’s by threatening to pull it out.

Read about the Nets

Brooklyn’s Finest

Pistons at Pacers

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (27-47) at Indiana Pacers (52-33)
  • Date: April 2, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Indiana Pacers will be the No. 2 seed tonight when they enter the contest with the Detroit Pistons.

Indiana owned the best record in the league throughout much of the season, but they have stumbled in the second half. The Pacers won 40 of their first 52 games, but the All-Star break seemed to slow them down.

Indiana is only 12-11 since All-Star weekend, mostly because the defense has slipped. Initially, the Pacers looked like the best defensive team in league history – yes, better than the 2004 Detroit Pistons – given how easily they shut down opponents.

Frank Vogel’s unit was beating up teams despite a somewhat mediocre offense because the defense was essentially elite. Provided that his players maintained that level of commitment and excellence, the team had a shot at making the NBA Finals.

However, they have regressed on both ends. The offense has fallen apart, and the defense has clearly seen better days. Indy has had the fifth best defense in the league since mid-February per NBA.com.

That’s hardly a death sentence, but the offense has fallen off a cliff during the same time span. As a reference point, it’s been slightly better than the Philadelphia 76ers’ offense, which ranks in the bottom of the league since the All-Star break, according to NBA.com.

The issue is the team’s attitude as David Aldridge noted over at NBA.com:

When the Pacers play against really good defenses like Miami and Chicago, the ball moves from side to side, inside-out, and the Pacers look like the championship contender they are. But when they play against less celebrated defenses, the ball too often sticks. And [Paul] George, too often, is believed to be the main culprit.

This was on full display earlier in the week against the San Antonio Spurs, and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst captured the details:

[Roy] Hibbert, frustrated by a lack of touches recently, forced some shots. George, who has been criticized for not acting like the superstar he is, tried too hard to take over and found himself going 1-on-3 as he tried to will himself into making plays in what turned out to be futile second half.

The Pacers must now find a way to bounce back, otherwise they will be in danger of losing a little more ground in the standings. Perhaps a matchup with the Pistons will help them get out of their funk, but then again, it’s entirely possible that their issues will be exposed yet again.

The Pistons have one of the worst defenses in the league, and Indiana has had issues against these types of teams because of their willingness to be one-dimensional against them.

Also, let’s not forget, Detroit is one of the five teams that actually secured a victory in Indiana this season, and that was when the Pacers were playing at the top of their game back in December.

Detroit used a 15-rebound edge to beat Indy on their home floor. To be fair, Detroit is every bit as different now as Indiana. The Pistons have seemingly given up on the season, which gives the Pacers an opportunity to right the ship.

Still, it feels like this game could be better than anticipated when looking at the teams on paper.

Read about the Pacers

Eight Points Nine Seconds

Bucks at Pistons: Bring on more tanks

Essentials

  • Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (14-59) at Detroit Pistons (26-47)
  • Date: March 31, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Milwaukee Bucks have the worst record in the league.

The Philadelphia 76ers seem to want that distinction because it will improve their chances of landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, but that won’t exactly be easy. The 76ers recently ended a 26-game losing streak at the expense of the Detroit Pistons, and the win gave Philly two more victories than the Bucks.

It should be a tight race given how close their respective records are. Milwaukee has lost nine of their past 10 games, thanks in large part to a defense that might remind fans of cartoon boats filled with holes that simply sink to the bottom of the ocean (the good old Bugs Bunny days or something).

In the month of March, the Bucks have surrendered 114.1 points per 100 possessions according to NBA.com. Projected over a full season, that would easily beat out the Utah Jazz, who own the worst defensive rating figures in the league.

What’s more, Milwaukee offers very little appeal. The team lacks a specific identity, offers very little entertainment value and has a glaring need for star power. In other words, the Bucks might need to win the draft lottery more than any other team in the league.

Milwaukee has become the Eastern Conference version of the Sacramento Kings.

They have a couple of pieces (O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders) that could definitely be solid contributors on playoff teams, but when grouped together, it’s like watching Jason Bourne die in the opening minutes of The Bourne Identity, only for the movie to still last 119 minutes.

It’s quite brutal.

Tonight, Pistons fans get an opportunity to get acclimated to the Bucks, after watching the Pistons fall before the 76ers. Although some fans have been cheerful of Detroit losses because of the draft lottery, one has to believe that even the most ardent supporter of the tanking Pistons does not want their team to lose in succession to Philly and Milwaukee.

What will you be cheering for tonight? Let us know in the comments section.

Read about the Bucks

Bucksketball

Pistons at 76ers: Bulletproof Tank-ing

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (26-46) at Philadelphia 76ers (15-57)
  • Date: March 29, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD Plus

What to look for

The Philadelphia 76ers own tanking.

In perhaps one of the most impressive displays of throwing away a season, the 76ers have lost 26 games in a row. Defeats were not sufficient for this Philly team though, they had to do it big.

During the losing streak, the 76ers are losing games by 17.1 points per game according to NBA.com. The front office has done everything in its power to ensure Philadelphia does not win games.

It’s honestly an incredible tank job when we take an in-depth look at the numbers.

On the season, the 76ers outscore teams by 13.7 points per 100 possessions in the clutch (defined as last five minutes of the game with scoring margin within five points). That’s the fifth-highest figure in the entire league per NBA.com.

Confused? So was I initially.

The data indicates that Philly loses games on average by double digits, but when they get into tight games, they have the ability to pull them out. The reason is actually simple: The 76ers just play how they play.

Indeed, late in games, Philly goes to their normal plays instead of opting for isolations like most teams. As a result, they often get high-percentage looks while defenses worry about stopping either Michael Carter-Williams or Thaddeus Young.

On the other end, opponents abandon their game plan and go to one-on-one plays with the hope of conquering a bottom-third defense. However, even the worst defenses in the league can manage against isolations.

Management probably realized this, and decided to blow things up at the trade deadline despite the fact they had already shoved a stick of dynamite on the roster in the 2013 offseason.

The 76ers traded away Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen to the Indiana Pacers, and they jettisoned Spencer Hawes to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Philly received a few draft picks coupled with Byron Mullens, Danny Granger and Earl Clark in those deals. Clark and Granger were waived.

Coincidentally, Philadelphia’s crunch time numbers flip flopped after these moves. The Sixers were a top-three clutch team (based on differential of offensive and defensive efficiency) prior to the trade deadline, but since February 20, they are among the five-worst clutch teams in the league per NBA.com.

The only reason their overall numbers are still high is because Philly has only managed to be close late in the fourth quarter for a total of 12 minutes (!) since making all the swaps.

Getting rid of some key pieces has resulted in the team’s inability to make games competitive in the final period. This makes for an incredibly “interesting” contest tonight against the Detroit Pistons.

Detroit has embraced tanking, although it appears as though they stumbled into it. Both teams are trying to lose, but one can only wonder which team will truly shoot itself in the foot.

Consider this nugget: Opponents outscore the Detroit Pistons by 32.9 points per 100 possessions in the clutch, by far the worst figure in the NBA.

As a result, we are left to conclude that Detroit should win going away. However, if the contest is close, the Pistons are worse than the 76ers in final minutes of games, which probably means the Philly losing streak might come to an end.

Read about the 76ers

Hoop 76