Monday, January 5, 2015

Weekly Preview: 1/4/2015 (1/2)

Record: 10-23 | Streak: Won five | Off. Eff.: 102.7 (25th ▲)| Def. Eff.: 105.8 (14th ▲)

We enter this week on FULL ALERT mode.  The Pistons are 5-0 since waiving Josh Smith on December 22nd, and now sit only four games back of Miami for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.  With the exception of a Cavs team in a rut, Detroit has feasted on teams with losing records.  That notion is somewhat mitigated by the fact that their closest win during the stretch is a 10-point victor over the Pacers.  Nonetheless, this week will be a test of what the Pistons are really made of.  Detroit's next three opponents are all over the 20-win mark.  Beating any one of the three, especially with two road games in Texas, would give the Pistons a signature victory that would almost certainly fuel the playoff hopes of Pistons fans.

The Pistons have only scored below 100 points once in their last eight games, that one occasion being a 97-81 victory over the hopeless Knicks, in which the Pistons went on auto-pilot for the 4th quarter.  The Pistons' defense, much like the offense, is nearly a whole two points better per 100 possessions since Smith was let go.  They'll need to keep the good vibes going at both ends to hold serve against the league's elite this week.

Click "Read More" for a preview of Detroit's games this week...

Tuesday, January 6, 8:30 p.m. | Detroit Pistons @ San Antonio Spurs (21-14) | FSD

The Spurs' offense hasn't quite been up to the usual standards this year, as they're only 12th in the NBA in Offensive Efficiency this season.  Rather, the Spurs defense has carried the load, ranking 6th in the league at only 103.1 points allowed per 100 possessions.  This stems in part from San Antonio ranking 3rd in the league in defensive rebounding, corralling 77.7% of opponents' misses.  Tim Duncan leads the charge in that regard, as his 27.9 DReb% ranks in the top-10 in the league.  He also ranks 5th in the league in BPG, at 2.1.  Duncan's shot-blocking is even more impressive on a per-100 basis, where he swats 3.4 shots per 100 possessions.  Times change, seasons come and go, and Tim Duncan is still good as hell at basketball.

On offense, San Antonio is one of the better shooting teams in the league.  The Spurs rank 7th in the NBA in 3P% and 8th in 2P%.  They're simply a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of 3PAr and FTr, so it's fair to say that the Spurs offense functions off of creating good lucks all over the floor.  With Kawhi Leonard out and Tony Parker limping on a bad hamstring, the Spurs offense has relied on Duncan, Ginobili and their usual respectable cast of nobodies.  Cory Joseph is having an excellent year, ranking 10th in the league in FG%, 9th in 2P% and 13th in eFG%.  Joseph isn't much of a play-maker (18.4 AST%, 11.9 TOV%), so Detroit should look to play him aggressively off the dribble and force him to get rid of the ball.  Even if Parker is in the lineup tomorrow (listed as questionable), expect Joseph to get plenty of play as the lead guard.

The Pistons have it all put together right now, but it's certainly not unfair to think that this would be where the wheels come off.  This is based on emotion, but it feels like the Pistons are either going to win this game or lose by 50.  I'll go with the former.

Prediction: Pistons 98 Spurs 92

Wednesday, January 7, 8:30 p.m. | Detroit Pistons @ Dallas Mavericks (25-10) | FSD

The Mavericks will make for a harrowing second half of a back-to-back.  The Mavs' offense, which ranks 1st in the league in Offensive Efficiency, scores over 114 points per 100 possessions.  The Pistons found out just how good that offense is back in January during a 117-106 loss at The Palace in December.  That night, the Mavs hit 45.5% of their threes and 53% of their twos.  The night after, the Mavs shipped out Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson and Jae Crowder in return for Rajon Rondo.  While Nelson and Crowder didn't do much in Detroit, the Pistons will be glad to not see Wright again.  The long, athletic C posted 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in 20 minutes.  They won't be glad to see Rondo in tow, with plenty of scoring weapons at his disposal.  The Pistons' only hope of slowing down the Mavs is to have their best defensive performance of the year. 

As of Monday night, the Mavs were tied with the Pistons for the longest winning streak in the league at five games.  After starting 1-2 with Rondo, Dallas has since caught fire.  The Mavs' run includes an impressive 27-point whomping of the Wizards and a solid win over the Durant-less Thunder.  As this is being written, the Mavs are up by 9 on the Nets with 8 minutes left, as they look for their 6th straight win. 

The run has to stop somewhere, and this really seems like the guaranteed spot, should the Pistons make it past the Spurs.  Dallas will be on fresher legs, with an offense set on "kill mode".  I'm a homer, but there's no way I can pick the Pistons in this one. 

Prediction: Mavericks 107 Pistons 96

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