Opponent Scouting: Cleveland Cavaliers. (0-4)
Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will host the Cleveland Cavaliers at the LCA. The Pistons are on one day of rest after beating the Sixers in an overtime thriller on Tuesday, while the Cavaliers are on the second night of a back to back having lost to the Nets yesterday.
The Cavaliers are very bad. I thought they would be bad, I don't know if I thought they would be quite this bad. They are 0-4, have the second worst defensive efficiency in the NBA by allowing 117.6 points per 100 possessions, and they have the 5th worst offensive efficiency in the NBA by scoring 103.2 points per 100 possessions. Those combine for, by far, the worst net rating in the NBA of -14.4 points per 100 possessions. By pretty much every measurement you could use, the Cavs are one of the worst teams in the NBA and it is hard to find numbers that suggest this is a fluke. The Cavs take the fewest threes in the NBA and hit them at a very poor rate, and are by far the league leaders in taking mid-rangers.
Kevin Love is probably the best hope they have to improve, while he is putting up a pretty monstrous stat-line of 19 points, 13.5 rebounds (fat Kevin Love is back???) and 3.5 assists per game, he is shooting terribly from the field. Love is shooting just 29.2% from deep and 32.3% overall. His huge volume of free throws (8.3 per game so far) has helped to stabilize a bit but his TS% of just 36.9% will get better. Cedi Osman already looks like he may be the Cavs second best player. Currently averaging 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4 assists while shooting 47% from deep and 42.6% overall. It isn't clear yet (obviously) exactly how good he is, but there is officially something there for Cedi.
After that it gets very ugly for the Cavs. Tristan Thompson is still doing his thing rebounding, he's a really good offensive rebounder in particular, but the Cavs don't have enough playmaking to create good looks for him and he scoring just 7.5 points per game and shooting 46% from the field, a very poor mark for a big man. George Hill has pretty much returned to the mode he was in with the Kings last year, his numbers are ok, 11.3 points while shooting 45.5% from deep with 3 assists per game. But he's playing so passively that it hardly even feels like he's a positive. Rodney Hood has shot like utter garbage from deep but has shown some signs of life in other areas.
Rookie Collin Sexton has predictably struggled in the early going. He is in double digits per game for scoring which is nice, but he's very inefficient and is turning the ball over a lot. Jordan Clarkson is the teams second-leading scorer at 16.8 per game off the bench and he's even doing it on decent efficiency, but he plays no defense and doesn't create for others. Larry Nance can still jump very high and plays hard but that's about it, Kyle Korver and JR Smith are all the way at the end of the bench, Sam Dekker is here and has looked ok.
This team is bad. Once Kevin Love (and to a lesser extent Rodney Hood) start hitting more shots they will be less terrible on offense, but there is very little hope for them to be any better on defense than they are and there is only so much Kevin Love can do to carry the offense. On the other hand, they are still looking for their first win of the season so look for them to be very hungry.
Matchups to watch:
Blake Griffin vs. Kevin Love: If Love continues to shoot as poorly as he had this is going to be a one sided matchup. On the other hand, given Griffin's inability to successfully close out on shooters, this could be the game Love gets going. Griffin will have his toughest defensive assignment of the season, and there has to be some worry about a regression game coming up so he will have to be focused.
Andre Drummond vs. Tristan Thompson/whatever else the Cavs throw at him: Thompson is a good rebounder, not as good as Drummond, but still good. Drummond will have to be diligent about boxing out Thompson and will have to put in some extra work to get offensive rebounds. This isn't some battle of titans, but Drummond will have to put in some extra work.
Pistons backcourt vs. Basically nothing: The Cavalier backcourt is not good. Jackson, Bullock, Smith, Galloway, Kennard, all of them should be able to have a grand day of romping. Especially Jackson (and Ish) because once they bust through the soft exterior defense it only gets softer inside the paint.
Pistons vs. Pick and roll coverage: The Cavaliers are bad and don't have much in the way of high-level pick and roll ball-handlers, but this is going to be an ongoing thing. I hate the scheme the Pistons are using on defense here, but they are also executing it very poorly at every level.
Pistons vs. Avoiding a letdown: Given the events of the last game, it would be easy for the Pistons to overlook this game and come out flat and blow it. That can't happen, the Cavs are bad and on a back to back. Come out strong and get your first comfortable win of the season.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Kevin Love is still missing shots like crazy.
Griffin, Jackson, and Smith are getting by their initial defenders.
“And here's another midrange pullup shot by the Cavs.”
Run for the hills if:
Kevin Love suddenly finds his shot with Griffin's miserable closeouts.
The Pistons come out flat.
Blake Griffin has some hard regression from his hot start.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Reggie Jackson scores many points.
Kevin Love finds his shot, 30 points.
Blake Griffin plays well but does come back to earth a bit.
Kevin Love keeps the Cavs in the game, but by the end it is a comfortable win for the Pistons.
Pistons 124 – Cavs 110.
What do you think? Will Kevin Love find his shot? Will Blake cool off?