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Game 18 Preview: Blazers vs. Pistons

A Look at the Pistons


Detroit enters today’s game with a respectable 10-5 record, second in the Central Division to the streaking Cleveland Cavaliers and fourth overall in the Eastern Conference.  Despite that, these are not your championship-vintage Pistons.  The difference can be summed up in one word:  defense.  The intimidating, suffocating, clockwork-precision D that used to be a Piston hallmark is long gone.  Detroit is now allowing opponents to shoot 45.9% (22nd best in the league) and score 96.6 (13th best in the league).  They’re a decent, but not overpowering, defensive rebounding team and they force few turnovers.  Mind you, Detroit is not bad defensively as much as anemic compared to their old selves.


The downturn in defensive prowess means that a team which was once a near-unstoppable machine is now looking beatable.  You have to play well to do it, but it can be done.  Indeed, the onus is now on Detroit to score in order to win.  They are 1-5 when scoring under 100 points, 9-0 when topping that mark.


The one area where Detroit remains strong defensively is on the perimeter.  They hound opposing guards and shooters.  If you can get inside, though, providing Rasheed Wallace isn’t having an inspired night you can really do damage.


The main offensive threat for Detroit lately has been Allen Iverson.  He’s led the team in scoring 6 times in 11 games and led the team in assists 7 times.  The Pistons’ record is only 6-5 since he arrived, however.  After Iverson come Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.  Prince is having one of his best offensive seasons but Hamilton’s shooting has been below his usual excellent standard so far.  Our old friend Rasheed Wallace leads the team in rebounding but continues to excite one night and disappear the next.  He also camps out behind the three-point line as much as ever.


After the four core players the Pistons run out guys like Amir Johnson, Kwame Brown, Rodney Stuckey, and Jason Maxiell.  All of them are serviceable.  None of them are particularly inspiring.  Most of them shoot well.  The big guys rebound well.  They’re decent role players and they know their jobs.  Stuckey and Johnson can occasionally surprise you.  But as a whole they’re not going to win games for you like the Big Four.


If you come out soft or unprepared the Pistons are going to hand you your hat and send you on your way with a convincing loss.  But if you go hard at them, prosecuting your own game instead of bowing to theirs, you have a chance.  Respect them enough to take them seriously, but not so much that you fear them.  They’re not that team anymore.


Keys to the Game


1.  Three-point shooting is going to be an interesting stat today.  The Blazers are very good at shooting them…in fact depend on them to keep the offense running smoothly.  Detroit defends the three-point arc very well.  If the Blazers cannot hit and the Pistons are allowed to pack it in, it’s going to be a long and embarrassing afternoon.


2.  The Pistons are 3-2 in games when Allen Iverson had the sole scoring lead.  One of the ways to make this team less effective is to keep its crucial players from getting involved.  I actually like Iverson scoring a bundle in this game to the exclusion of Prince, Hamilton, and Wallace.  If the latter three are disengaged or frustrated Portland has a great chance of winning.


3.  Our centers versus whoever Detroit throws out there will be the best potential matchup for the Blazers but Lamarcus Aldridge versus Rasheed Wallace will be the most critical.  Lamarcus can’t get dominated, nor can he afford to let Rasheed have an easy day guarding him.  Tiring Wallace, or even better getting him in foul trouble, would go a long way towards opening up the middle.


4.  Despite what we said above about Detroit’s defense they are still more than capable if you let them set their defense.  These guys are smart and experienced.  They’ll know your plays before you do.  The best way around that is keeping the ball moving and defenders guessing and on edge.  This is not the game to isolate your forward in the post sixty-two times.


5.  The Blazers must take care of the ball to avoid giving the Pistons easy points.


6.  When in doubt, run and drive.


Final Thoughts


This will be a tough road trip.  One of the keys to our winning record in the last trip was winning the early games, thus taking the pressure off.  This would be a fantastic win today…another “Blazers have arrived” type victory.  It won’t be easy because or Detroit’s talent and experience.  This could be one of those games where big brother takes little brother to school.  The noon Pacific start is also to the Blazers’ disadvantage.  That’s awfully early compared to most of our outings.  The Blazers will need to be focused and energized from the beginning and not let the Pistons just mow over them.


You can enter the final Jersey Contest form of the month here.  Don’t forget the noon start.  ALSO don’t forget that the scoreboard does NOT include the season-opening L*kers game, which DOES count.  Therefore the leader after today’s game may not have actually won.  I will add in the Los Angeles scores this evening and let you know.


--Dave (