Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pistons @ Rockets Game Preview

Game 59; March 1, 2014; 8:00 p.m. ET
Detroit Pistons (23-35) vs. Houston Rockets (39-19)
Toyota Center; Houston, TX
TV: Fox Sports Detroit
The Essentials:
(NBA Rank)PaceOff. Eff.Def. Eff.TS%O.Reb%D.Reb%
ROCKETS98.3 (6th)107.9 (5th)102.1 (8th)57.0 (3rd)27.5 (1oth73.5 (22nd)
PISTONS97.6 (10th)102.5 (18th)105.7 (23rd)51.5 (24th)31.2 (1st)73.9 (18th)
Detroit enters tonight's match-up with the Rockets 3.5 games back of Atlanta for a playoff spot, and 2.5 games ahead of Utah for the league's 8th-worst record.  If the Jazz or Knicks can outperform the Pistons in the stretch run, Detroit can protect their draft pick from the Bobcats.  Here's to hoping Joe Dumars' decision to not take Trey Burke ultimately does pay off.  The Pistons need to lose as many games as possible down the stretch, and tonight offers a great opportunity.  The Rockets come in having won 8 of their last 10 games, and arguably playing their best basketball of the season.  They boast the league's 3rd most efficient offense, but also have a very respectable defense, only allowing 102.1 points per 100 possessions.
Detroit and Houston first met this season on December 21st at The Palace, and boy did Houston really throttle the Pistons.  Playing without Jeremy Lin and James Harden, Dwight Howard put on a show, scoring 35 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.  Houston also got 20 points and 7 rebounds from Chandler Parsons.  Howard's dominance of Andre Drummond might have been the lowest point of the young Center's season.  Drummond only scored 9 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 29 minutes, while also racking up 5 fouls.  If Drummond really wants to prove that he belongs in the NBA's elite, he'll show that he can stick with Howard tonight.  The Pistons were led by Josh Smith's 19 points (on 20 shots!) in the first match-up, and were also hampered by a 2-11 shooting night from Brandon Jennings. 
Click "Read More" for a run-down of the Rockets' rotation and a breakdown on what the Pistons need to do to lose

Opposing Personnel
STARTING FIVE:
PG: Patrick Beverley - 9.4 PPG, 35.1 3P%, 52.4 TS%, .523 3PAr, 12.5 AST%, 11.8 TO%
Beverley isn't a prototypical PG in any fashion, really.  He claims an assist rate that is barely higher than his turnover rate, and isn't a high usage player.  He takes more than half of his shots from behind the three point line, and connects at a decent rate, hitting 35.1% of his three point attempts.  As someone who doesn't create a lot off the dribble, this should be one of Jennings' more favorable defensive matchups of the season. 
SG: James Harden - 24.5 PPG, 60.6 TS%, 34.4 3P%, .540 FTr, .388 3PAr, 24.2 AST%, 15.4 TO%
Harden missed the first matchup with the Pistons, but figures to be a problem for Kyle Singler tonight.  Harden is one of the league's most efficient scorers, thanks to one of the league's highest FT rates as well as his ability to convert in the paint.  Harden is Houston's primary play-maker as evidenced by his 24.2 AST%.  If Harden gets hot from behind the arc, he's going to put up a lot of points, as his ability to get to the FT line generally remains consistent.
SF: Chandler Parsons - 16.7 PPG, 58.4 TS%, .359 3PAr, 39.1 3P%, 16.2 AST%, 8.4 TRB%

EDIT - Parsons is out sick tonight, Jordan Hamilton will start at SF.
Parsons fills the role that Hedo Turkoglu used to fill when he played with Dwight Howard in Orlando: strong outside shooter, smart passer.  Parsons, the 37th pick in the 2011 draft, is having his best season yet as a pro, benefitting from the focus that Dwight Howard draws from opposing defenses.  Parsons has taken advantage of open looks, hitting 39.1% of his threes.  Parsons isn't a particularly strong rebounder, as is true of most Rockets players not named Dwight Howard.
PF: Terrence Jones - 11.5 PPG, 55.9 TS%, 17.7 PER, 14.3 TRB%, .275 FTr, 104 DRtg
Jones has been a very pleasant surprise for the Rockets this season, having taken over the starting PF role in the earlier half of the season.  Jones isn't the typical stretch four that most teams have put around Dwight Howard, but he does a few things well.  He gets to the FT line well, converts 56.8% of his two-point attempts and is regarded as a good defender.  As evidenced by this shot chart from vorped.com, Jones takes almost 70% of his shots right at the rim.
C: Dwight Howard - 18.9 PPG, 59.6 TS%, .813 FTr, 20.4 TRB%, 24.7 USG%, 1.9 BPG
Howard needs no introduction at this point in his career.  Having yet another stellar season, this time for the Rockets, Howard controls the paint.  He claims an almost unreal .813 Free Throw Rate, and converts 58.8% of his attempts.  Howard is one of the league's best rebounders; his 20.4 TRB% is 4th among all players in the NBA.  He's the league's 13th best offensive rebounder, and the 6th best defensive rebounder.  Not getting ripped apart by Howard again would be important if you actually want the Pistons to win tonight.
BENCH
PG: Jeremy Lin - 12.7 PPG, 57.2 TS%, .424 FTr, 22.8 AST%, 19.5 TO%, 20.1 USG%
Lin almost splits minutes evenly with Beverly on the season, with each playing around 31 minutes per game, sharing the court on occasion.  When Lin is on the floor, he tends to create off the dribble, get to the free throw line, and turn the ball over a fair amount.  Lin isn't the star he was in New York, but he's a serviceable backup and is a good enough player that he can hurt you if his defender has trouble staying in front of him.
SF: Jordan Hamilton - 2 GP with HOU after being acquired from DEN at trade deadline
Hamilton has only played two games with Houston this season, so his statistics won't mean much due to a small sample size in his current situation.  Hamilton has scored 28 points in his two games in a Rockets uniform, making 6 of his 11 three point attempts.  Hamilton is the kind of player you want around Dwight Howard, as he's a career 36.5% three point shooter.  That number figures to go up in his time in Houston.  Hamilton can't be left alone.
G/F: Francisco Garcia - 5.9 PPG, 35.4 3P%, .705 3PAr, .073 FTr
There isn't much to say about Garcia other than that he loves to launch three pointers.  Garcia's three point rate and free throw rate suggest that he needs to be run off the line.  Not a real threat to pass or rebound.  For a guy whose role is purely as a three point shooter, he isn't a great one.  However, if he's on, there won't be much you can do to stop him, due to the looks his teammates create for him.
C: Omer Asik - 4.3 PPG, 54.7 TS%, 103 DRtg, 20.7 TRB%, 22.3 TO%
Soon-to-be severely overpaid backup C Omer Asik is back into the lineup for the Rockets after the trade deadline came and went without him being dealt out of town.  Asik is a very good defender and rebounder, but can be a liability on the offensive end.  His TO rate is hilariously high and he's, at best, an average finisher for a big man. 
HOW TO WIN:
I'm fighting the urge to name this section "How to Lose".  For the meantime, if the Pistons want to win this game, they'll limit the amount of three point attempts that Houston can get off.  If guys like Chandler Parsons, Jordan Hamilton and Francisco Garcia are left un-checked, the Pistons will have no trouble getting destroyed tonight.  The key to winning on offense will be attacking Chandler Parsons with Josh Smith post-ups.  Parsons doesn't have the strength to stop Smith.
PREDICTION:
Rockets 112 Pistons 98

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