It’s been rather dreary here at Knickerblogger these last few days, why with all the dysfunction within the organization — losing doesn’t help things either — but perhaps a match-up with the league’s worst defensive team is exactly what the Knicks need to turn things around.
To help get a better idea of what to expect from the Detroit Pistons tonight, I brought in Jameson Draper of Pistons Powered and Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys.
The Pistons and Knicks are both 3-6 coming into tonight’s game. Which team should be more concerned about their rough start?
Chase Thomas (@ChaseThomasSBN): I think it’s the Pistons. The Knicks have a lot of problems, but I don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button with the team’s defensive anchor Tyson Chandler out of action. The Pistons went all in this summer in free agency to finally get back in the playoffs,but their big free agency acquisitions aren’t gelling with one another.
Jameson Draper (@jamdraper): I’d say the Pistons, mostly because their expectations coming into the season were much higher. I don’t think it’s necessarily concerning for either team, but it there was one I’d worry about, it would be Detroit.
Matt Watson (@MattWatson): The Knicks are coming off a 54-win season; the Pistons, meanwhile, won 54 games in the previous two seasons combined. Simply due to expectations, the Knicks are in more trouble. All Detroit needs to do is win a couple of games and they’re back in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots, which is pretty much all Pistons fans are hoping for this year.
The Pistons and Knicks are also both struggling to find the right starting lineup. The Pistons starters actually have a plus/minus of -35 thus far. The Knicks obviously are thin in the frontcourt right now, so should we expect Smith-Monroe-Drummond to have big nights?
Chase: With Felton ailing, Prigs not playing much, and Andrea Bargnani doing Bargnani like things on defense, the Pistons should be able to penetrate and finish at a relatively high rate against the Knicks. The Pistons starting lineup can have a big night if they don’t stand around the perimeter and focus on beating the Knicks up inside — specifically with Monroe on Melo.
Jameson: Offensively, yes. They always have big nights on that end of the court, regardless of the competition. Defensively, maybe they’ll do a bit better than normal. With the exception of Smith, who is a superstar on defense, Drummond and Monroe have been struggling this season. Maybe against a weak frontcourt, though, they can hone their skills.
Matt: Detroit’s big frontcourt has surprisingly struggled on the defensive end this year, allowing random second- and third-tier big men to go off. Even though New York’s frontcourt is thin, don’t be surprised if Andrea Bargnani or, hell, even Kenyon Martin pops off for 20 and 10. I wish I were kidding.
But on the other end, yes, I expect a lot of points and offensive rebounds from Detroit’s big three. Smith has been hot and cold all season, but he’s done a great job of playing within himself the last two games. Greg Monroe will always do his thing, and Drummond gets most of his production off putbacks and alley-oops.
Raymond Felton hasn’t played well against quality point guards so far this season. With that said, do you think the Pistons should focus on challenging Felton with Jennings and Bynum or focus on getting the ball inside to Smith, Monroe and Drummond?
Chase: I’d focus on attacking Felton with a variety of pick-and-rolls and get the ball in the hands of Monroe on the low block as much as possible.
Jameson: They should do a mixture of both. The Knicks, overall, are not the best defensive team, and the Pistons need to take advantage of that, as they can score a bunch of points.
Matt: Jennings talked a big game about being a pass-first distributor in the preseason, but for the most part he’s already abandoned that approach. Even on Sunday, when he racked up 14 assists, he took 22 shots (and did most of his scoring when the game was already decided). So regardless what I think the Pistons should do, I expect Jennings to look for his shot all night, for better or worse.
This is a two-parter. Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith are likely going to be matched up with each other. Predict how many shots total the two have tonight combined. Also, why are these two players starting for their respective teams?
Chase: Too many. Although I expect Smith to get the better of his matchup with Billups, so I expect he’ll be shooting quite often this evening. Smith is coming off a 3-for-18 outing against a good Hawks team, so everyone should brace themselves of what might come against a bad Pistons defense.
Jameson: Chauncey won’t shoot a ton, as he’s matured, is a veteran, and doesn’t play a large role on the team anymore. He’ll shoot his fair share of shots, but I wouldn’t call it “a lot”. JR Smith, however, will shoot his brains out. He likes shooting regardless of the skill of his defender. Add that to the fact that he’ll be defended by Chauncey Billups, who is awful on that end of the court, and we’ll find him shooting… A LOT.
Matt: I suspect Mo Cheeks started Billups earlier in the season out of respect for the veteran, but he’s missed a couple of games with knee tendinitis, opening the door for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Even if Billups returns and starts, I’d be surprised if he played more than 15 minutes. But I’m predicting 25 shots between the two of them — and that’s with Billups taking no more than five. I imagine Smith will try to put on a show following his recent Twitter spat with Jennings.
Josh Smith is taking 5.7 three-pointers per game so far this season. Is this a trend we should expect to continue tonight in New York and going forward?
Chase: I hope so. Smith staying out of the paint and hanging out on the perimeter is something the Knicks will need to pull out a victory.
Jameson- Yes. He’ll have open shots and he’ll take them. I’m convinced later in the season he’ll tone it down, but as of right now, I don’t see his three numbers going down at all.
Matt: I think so. Even in his last two games, when he let the game come to him rather than jacking up shorts, he combined for 11 attempts. So long as they’re open shots, I’m fine with that. He’s not the ideal guy you want taking that shot, but it’s also a function of Detroit’s weird offense.
The Pistons currently have the worst defensive rating in the NBA. Why has their defense been so bad, and what areas should the Knicks look to exploit in their defense?
Chase: The Knicks should utilize the pick-and-roll and attack the Pistons frontcourt. Monroe and Drummond are allowing opponents to shoot roughly 50 percent at the rim on them this season, per NBA.com. The Pistons hit the boards hard, but their interior defense is still very vulnerable.
Jameson: It’s odd, and honestly, I can’t pinpoint the exact reason. Jennings, with the exception of his pick and roll defense, is a good defender, as is Caldwell-Pope. The rest of the Pistons backcourt is bad at defense. As far as the frontcourt goes, Smith is a great defender, Drummond is good, and Monroe is abysmal. It’s weird, because while it’s clear this defense has a lot of flaws, they have talent on defense still— they shouldn’t have the worst defense in the NBA, but they are. I mean, the Knicks could attack this team on all cylinders and be successful. It’s going to be a very high-scoring game.
Matt: The Pistons have had a lot of problems — and for a more detailed breakdown, I’ll defer to my colleague Mike Prada, but part of it comes down to Smith still adjusting to guarding small forwards, Drummond not living up to expectations as a rim protector and the team as a whole doing a better job defending 3-pointers. The first two I think will correct with time and experience (although perhaps not in time to stop Carmelo Anthony from going off); the latter is more problematic. The Pistons are allowing the opposition to shoot .392 from long distance this year — I have to imagine the Knicks will look to exploit that all night.
Who ultimately wins tonight and why?
Chase: The Knicks have been a better road team so far this season, but for the Knicks to win tonight they’ll have to do a couple of things really well. The Pistons interior defense has been dreadful and the Knicks will need to exploit that and not settle for contested jumpers. The Knicks transition defense is abysmal and the Pistons do a really good job of forcing turnovers so if the Knicks get sloppy offensively the Pistons could runaway with this one. Ultimately, I think the Pistons win in a very high scoring game.
Jameson: I say the Pistons pull it out in a high scoring affair. Both offenses will work perfectly fine, but the Detroit defense will finally prevail with a small glimmer of interior defense and stop the Knicks from scoring more than usual. They’re lofty hopes, but I can definitely see that happening tonight.
Matt: Even though it’s clear the Pistons have problems, they’re also capable of playing extremely well for long stretches. I actually like their chances tonight, especially in their first game back home. Vegas says the Pistons are 4.5-point favorites — that sounds about right to me. I expect a competitive game, but Detroit’s efficiency scoring in the paint should be the deciding factor.
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