THE SCOUTING REPORT
The unstoppable HighTops:
It’s only been two weeks since we beat Detroit 103-97. In that time the Pistons beat the Spurs without Tony Parker, 109-101 in OT, and they beat the Twolves 108-85. That’s a lot of points for a team that’s ranked 29th in scoring and only averages 92 ppg, especially when you consider that they only attempt an average of 13 three point shots per game and only made about 4 per game. A team that’s 28th in FG%, dead last in 3P%, and 27th in FT%, 26th in Fouls, and 28th in Blocks, and still they have a better record than the Kings. How can that be you ask? Defense and Ball Control.
The Piston’s are 10th in fewest turnovers per game, they are 7th in fewest steals allowed, and they are 3rd in rebounds allowed. So, when their shooters get hot, they win games. And, so far in February, Detroit is putting up season highs in PPG, FG%, 3P%, and Assists. Which means Richard Hamilton 19.8 ppg, Rodney Stuckey 15.1 ppg, and Tayshaun Prince 13.6 ppg, are having a good month. The same 3 guys who lead the Pistons in scoring with 54 points in our last game.
The Pistons are eight games behind in the loss column for the final playoff spot in the East with only 27 games remaining. Which isn’t bad considering the amount of injuries they had early in the year. Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton experienced multiple injuries that cost them a combined 59 games in the season's first 41 games. But, the Pistons are finally healthy, and have gone 5-4 in February. Allowing John Kuester to settle into a nine-man rotation with Charlie V, Ben Gordon, Jason Maxiell and and Will Bynum coming off the bench. So, even though the Pistons are 1-9 on the road against the West, they believe they can win most if not all the games on this trip.
The Pistons had been hoping to get someone like Carlos Boozer to shore up their front line, and were willing to use either Richard Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince as trade bait. But with the Jazz playing their best basketball in years, Utah had no interest in breaking up the team. So, the Kings will be playing the same team as 2 weeks ago, while the Pistons will see the new Kings without Martin who was the leading scorer in the last game.
The Pistons win or lose on their long jumpers. They actually take and make as many shots from 16-23 foot range as they do at the rim. And, they take as many 10-15 foot jumpers as 3pt shots, which is about 13 per game. For Detroit, offense is a team activity and not an individual one. So far in February, 58.6% of all their made baskets at the rim were assisted, 62.9% of all their made baskets from 16-23 foot range were assisted, and 100% of their 3pt shots were assisted. Giving Detroit’s shooters an open 16-23 footer is like giving Wallace an uncontested shot at the rim. Slightly overstated but you get my meaning, don’t leave jump shooters to double in the paint. The best way to limit scoring down low, is prevent the entry pass in the first place. If Wallace gets the ball down low, the Hack-a-Ben is in order. Wallace shoots only 43% from the FT line, and Maxiell shoots around 58%.
The Kings didn’t exactly dominate Detroit in the last game. Detroit actually got to within 3 points 95-92 with 2:19 left in the 4th. And, the game really wasn’t out of reach until Evans stole the ball and broke away for a dunk with 30 seconds left. But, if it weren’t for the Kings bench, lead by Beno with 22 pts, outscoring the Pistons’ bench 44-28 we would have lost.
The Kings also lost the battle on the offensive boards and committed 5 more turnovers which lead to the Pistons getting 10 more FG opportunities. If it wasn’t for the poor shooting of Hamiton 5-18 and Stuckey 4-13, and Gordon 0-8 the King would never have been in the game. Greene started at PF and had 0 rebounds, with Brockman and May combining for 1 rebound in 10 minutes, so we should see an improvement on the boards with Landry starting at the 4 and it should be interesting to see how he does against the rookie Jerebko. Tyreke, Beno, and JT had a combined 11 turnovers ( 1 less then the entire Pistons team), and that must stop, especially the unforced ones.
Hawes and JT combine for 11 pts and 20 rebounds in 27 minutes each, and hopefully will continue to improve along side Landry. Omri had a below average game and hopefully will get more than 6 FGA’s now that Martin is gone. The big questions are who will replace Martin’s scoring, and which of the new players will suit up and get PT. It might be Cisco who joins Hughes and Brockman on the inactive list. I fear he came back too soon to help out the team when Martin departed. And, injuring his hand in the Clippers game, and sitting out the Suns game has me really really worried.
Both teams are a game and a half out of 14th place in their respective conference. Detroit is experienced and plays good defense. The Kings are young, energetic, and are one of the highest scoring teams in the league. The old adage that defense wins championships might be true, but in the battle for the basement, I’ll take the Kings and a powerful offense.
THE KEY BATTLE
Tyreke Evans vs. Rodney Stuckey. No surprise here -- the best King against Detroit's catalyst. While each team has big scorers elsewhere, if this matchup is lopsided, you can reasonably expect the battle winner to have the victory.
Carl Landry will draw polite if distracted cheers from section 203. (I have no idea why I'm picking on section 203.)
7 PM PT. Two game threads (7 and 8:15) and a post-gamer (9:45).