A Look at the Pistons
The Detroit Pistons roll into town having won 7 in a row and 10 of their last 12. Granted the opposition hasn't exactly been murderer's row. More like mis-sorting your recycling row. (Naughty, but not quite as intimidating.) Nevertheless, gunning for a perfect record through any given 10% slice of the season is not too shabby.
You know most of the main Detroit names already: Rasheed, Prince, Rip, McDyess, and of course now Allen Iverson. A quick look at the 21-11 record will tell you that AI hasn't had too much trouble assimilating. He leads them in scoring at 18.2 ppg but this new, improved Iverson now comes with 25% less shooting. The other big names are still getting their attempts and this remains a fairly unselfish team. Five different players have led the team in scoring in one game or another this year. Four of them we've mentioned (everyone but McDyess so far). The fifth is point guard Rodney Stuckey. He's had an amazing 15-day stretch, leading the Pistons in scoring in 5 of their last 8 games including a 38-point pasting laid on the Sacramento Kings and a 40-point hurt put on the Chicago Bulls. That's not nice. And it's not a fluke. My man Rodney is shooting 47% for the season overall...stellar for a guard.
This brings up a serious issue for the Blazers tonight. Detroit is stacked at their small positions. Stuckey is destroying everybody at point. Iverson starts at off-guard with Rip Hamilton backing him up. Tayshaun Prince still plays small forward. The Blazers have one real defender among their smalls. It's going to be interesting seeing Batum trying to stop all of those guys in his 18 minutes of playing time.
Though the Pistons aren't as intimidating as they were in their championship years they still shoot and defend well. Their bigs can draw you outside, making it hard to help on penetration. Rasheed Wallace plays center for them and he's their only volume three-point shooter who actually makes them. They're careful with the ball and not prone to mistakes. If they have weaknesses besides their three-point production they are mediocre rebounding and a lack of fouls drawn. They're not horrible but they can easily be beat in these areas. This makes it hard for them to score points most nights despite their array of offensive players. This is an area the Blazers could exploit.
Keys to the Game
1. The first and biggest question is what to do with those guards. Any of them individually could make this a long night for Portland. Together they're a grim crew to face. The Blazers might have to live with Wallace's shooting and leave a big man down low to help watch the lane. Rasheed doesn't like to dominate games anyway. The help defense is going to have to be alert, quick, and effective tonight.
2. Another reason to have the bigs stay home is that we'll benefit from a large rebounding edge. The Pistons aren't afraid to shoot jumpers. When those are off rebounds come fast and furious. But we can't just rely on Aldridge and Oden. Our small forwards and guards have GOT to keep their counterparts off of the boards. This isn't a great offensive rebounding team. Please don't make them into one!
3. We need to quicken the pace on Detroit. They can win fast or slow, but if we're on the run after long misses they might have a hard time keeping up on the scoreboard. The best chance for a Portland win would be a free-for-all scorefest.
4. This may not be the game for Greg Oden. There's a possibility he could mow over everybody in the paint but more likely he'll be picking up fouls and struggling to keep up with his man. This could be the game for Channing Frye.
5. If things are going well we should have a large points in the paint advantage tonight.
You tired of losing? I am. It's a mark of how far we've come that a 2-game losing streak feels like an eternity. How about alleviating that?
Enter the Jersey Contest form for tonight's game here.