Not many teams are worse than the Cleveland Cavaliers on paper, but the Detroit Pistons are one. It seems like forever ago that, along with the Cavaliers, the Pistons were among the elite teams in the NBA year in and year out. At their pinnacle, the Pistons beat the Shaquille O’Neal-era Los Angles Lakers to win an NBA title in 2004, and were in contention every year up until 2008, when they traded away Chauncey Billups. Sitting at 5-13, the Pistons sit only a half game ahead of Cleveland, who stands at 4-13. Tonight’s game starts at 7:30, live on FSN Ohio as usual. In Cleveland, the game will also air live on WTAM 1100.
The Pistons opened the season 0-8, but in their last ten games, they have gone a respectable 5-5. Their signature win in that time frame was over the Boston Celtics, whom they beat 103-83 behind a double-double from Greg Monroe. They also played close against Oklahoma City (losing 92-90), but the Pistons have also been blown out in two games (against the Knicks and Mavericks) in the same time span. This Pistons team does have talent (namely Monroe – whom I think is a budding star), but nothing overly spectacular. They do have some pieces I really like (Monroe, Brandon Knight, Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stuckey off the bench), but no one that screams “superstar.” Then again, when the Pistons were great in the mid-2000s, they didn’t really have a superstar that carried their team.
Tonight, the Cavaliers will have to watch out for the lineup of Knight, Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Maxiell and Monroe. Per 82games.com, that lineup plays the most out of all Piston lineups, even though it has a plus/minus of -37. It’s a lineup that, in the backcourt, could give the Cavaliers problems with Kyrie Irving out and Dion Waiters questionable with an ankle sprain.
This is a game, that if at full strength, the Cavs win pretty easily. As good as Monroe has been, Anderson Varejao pretty much neutralizes him right now. I also think the combination of Tyler Zeller/Tristan Thompson neutralizes Maxiell on the block. The potential cracks come with the Knight-Stuckey combination. Jeremy Pargo has played great in Irving’s absence, but I’m not convinced he can stop Knight. Also, if Waiters is out, who starts at shooting guard? Omri Casspi? Daniel Gibson? Either way, there will be some defensive issues with either player against Stuckey, who actually plays a lot like Waiters.
One interesting little tidbit here is the relationship between Cavaliers coach Byron Scott and Pistons coach Lawrence Frank. When Scott was the coach of the then New Jersey Nets, Frank was his assistant. And when Scott was fired as head coach during the 2003-2004 NBA season, Frank was successor. It has been a long time since the they have coached together, but the mentor-mentee storyline is still an intriguing one to follow.
All in all, this is a game the Cavaliers still should win. Even though I think Knight outplays Pargo, I think he’ll do well enough to stop Knight (who only averages 13.3 points anyways). It will come down to the bench scoring of Cleveland, which has been much better of late. Assuming Waiters plays, I think Gibson and Casspi can score enough to put Cleveland ahead. It may be a lot like the Blazers game in that it won’t be high quality, but it could be a lot of fun if both teams click on all cylinders. If not, then we will see a stereotypical ugly NBA game where Donald Sloan chucks up 15 shots and Andre Drummond bricks every one of his free throws. I’m hoping we get the former.