Opponent Scouting: New Orleans Pelicans (29-26)
Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Pellies from New Orleans. The Pistons are on the second night of a back to back after losing to the Hawks last night, while the Pellies are on one day of rest after beating the Nets in overtime on Saturday.
The Pelicans are mostly just trying to stay afloat without DeMarcus Cousins at this point, but they will still be a tough out. Even though the team is different without Cousins, they have the 8th best offense in the NBA at 107.3 points per 100 possessions and the 20th defense by allowing 107 points per 100 possessions.
The Pelicans are of course led by Anthony Davis, who is really good. Dude can shoot, roll, pass, and handle the ball. He's stupidly good. After him Jrue Holiday is having a really nice bounce-back year and the Pistons have struggled to contain quick guards over the last few games. Nikola Mirotic was acquired from the Bulls and he is still a streaky shooter who can burn you if you let him. E'Twaun Moore is a pretty decent three and D player. Rajon Rondo is still here, he doesn't shoot threes, but he can still pass and do Rondo stuff even if he isn't all that good anymore. The bench is, um, not great in New Orleans. Darius Miller has shot reallyw ell this year, Ian Clark has been bad, Cheick Diallo is a guy, DeAndre Liggins doesn't really offense so good.
Without Cousins this team is really in a rough spot. They were already teetering on the edge of having enough NBA caliber players to have a competent rotation, and without Cousins it is that much harder to cover for those guys. As long as Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are playing they will still be tough though.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Davis: Since Cousins went down, Davis has spent a lot more time playing center. Davis' ability to shoot and put it on the floor will certainly give Drummond some trouble, but Drummond is also much bigger and stronger. It will be an interesting battle of styles.
Blake Griffin vs. Weaknesses: While Drummond battles with Davis, Griffin is likely to spend most of the night against Mirotic and the 21 year old Diallo. The Pistons need him to hit his shots again, and this will be a good night to do it. Also worth noting, he's struggled to close out effectively on shooters which worries me given that Mirotic is likely to be his guy a lot.
Refs vs. Not calling a billion fouls: After a second viewing I actually think that the Pistons were in the advantage when all was said and done, but that Hawks game was awful to watch. No flow, no transition plays, no nothing. It dragged. Don't do that again.
Pistons vs. Getting back in transition: The Pellies love to run, and they try even more without Cousins. The Pistons must make sure they are smart about getting back.
Ish Smith vs. Bouncing back: Ish was awful last time out and the Pistons cannot have that. The good news is that the Pellies like to play an up and down track meet game, which is Ish's specialty.
Griffin vs. ATTACK: Too many jumpers. I don't mind him taking jumpers to be clear, he will hit more than he has so far as a Piston and its important he keeps defenses honest, but he needs to be less willing to just do it, don't let them off easy.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Drummond is bullying Anthony Davis in the paint and sticking with him on the other end.
Blake Griffin comes out angry and destroys whatever poor saps the Pelicans put on him.
Ish Smith looks right at home in the track meet game.
Run for the hills if:
Griffin is still just off.
Drummond gets into foul trouble.
The Pistons continue to struggle to find good lineups.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Drummond plays Davis to a draw, maybe even wins his matchup.
Griffin plays really well even if the numbers don't end up being huge.
Ish Smith bounce-back.
The Pistons play with good effort and look more comfortable in a wide open up and down game.
Pistons 119 – Pelicans 110.
What do you think? Can Blake get right? Drummond or Davis?