Open thread: Regular season game 30


The essentials:
Pistons (24-7) at Wizards (15-14)
7 p.m.
Verizon Center
CSN

Last year:
November 17: Pistons 100, Wizards 91.
November 24: Pistons 115, Wizards 111
January 26: Wizards 99, Pistons 96
January 30: Wizards 104, Pistons 99

Notable Pistons numbers this season:
2nd in expected winning percentage (.816).
30th in pace factor (87.4 possessions per game).
2nd in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (114)
2nd in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (102.4).

Key links (drop any others in the comments)
Detroit Bad Boys.
Need4Sheed
Pistons Nation Blog.
Wizards Insider: Daniels to play.
Carter and Lee chat.
The crazy Primoz Bresec.
Pistons Nation blog preview.
Empty the Bench blog preview.
Need4Sheed blog preview.
Motoring blog preview.
Competition discussion: Detroit.

Starting lineups:
Pistons
PG: Chauncey Billups
SG: Richard Hamilton
SF: Tayshaun Prince
PF: Rasheed Wallace
C: Antonio McDyess

Wizards
PG: Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brendan Haywood

Tonight's lines:
Pistons at Wizards: Pistons by 5.
Over/Under on Big 2 scoring: 43.9 points.

This is a biggie, and because it's a biggie, it's a good time for a really extensive preview.

Not your daddy's Pistons: Boston may be running over the league, but Detroit is quietly having an incredible season, though putting them first in your power rankings seems a bit silly.  

How are they doing it?  Detroit's probably the poster boy for why per-game numbers are misleading.  They're averaging just over 99 points a game, which puts them somewhere in the middle of the back, while they are surrendering the second-fewest points per game behind just Boston, which makes it seem like they're a defense-first team.  But when you adjust for tempo, the story changes.  Since Flip Saunders took over for Larry Brown, the Pistons' offense has become one of the best halfcourt machines in recent memory, and only Phoenix has a higher offensive efficiency.  

What makes Detroit's offense so good?  They never turn the ball over.  Detroit's turnover rate has consistently been among the best in basketball, and this year, they're number one.  The major reason is Chauncey Billups, who has really blossomed under Saunders.  His PER is approaching 25 right now, and he's a legitimate MVP candidate that has a knack for getting the ball where it needs to go.  He's not particularly quick, but he understands angles well and has curbed his poor shot selection in recent years.  

But he's not the only one, as none of Detroit's starters have a turnover rate above 10.  Tayshaun Prince remains one of the league's best ball-handling small forwards, though between you and me, he's a bit overrated.  Up front, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess do a great job of taking care of the ball.  Wallace, in particular, remains one of the league's most underrated players who's contributions don't necessarily show up in the stats that measure most big men.

But in a way, they are...: Even under Saunders, Detroit still was decent defensively, but they badly missed Ben Wallace, as evidenced by LeBron James driving to the rim at will in last year's playoffs.  This year, however, they are back to second in the league, thanks mostly to an improvement in defending jumpers.  Detroit's eFG% last year is 46.6%, down from 47.7 last year.  I think they've curbed their tendency to get lazy at times, and that's translated on defense.  

An improved bench: Like the Wizards, Detroit had a bench problem in the last couple years.  Like the Wizards, they've addressed that with an infusion of youth, led by Jason Maxiell, Arron Afflalo, and now Rodney Stuckey.  Maxiell, in particular, has been a beast in limited minutes this year.  He's been good on the glass, but that was to be expected.  What is unexpected is the 55.9 eFG% and 60.5 true shooting percentage.  I don't know if he can keep that up, but as long as he can, it makes Detroit's second unit very dangerous.

Afflalo, Flip Murray, and Stuckey have stabilized the backcourt, which is key, because Billups and Richard Hamilton have played too many minutes over the years.  The additions of Walter Hermann and Nazr Mohammad help as well.

Oh, and there's also Jarvis Hayes.

Welcome back: Antonio Daniels will start today, according to the link above.  I'm assuming this moves Roger Mason to the bench, which makes things very interesting for Eddie Jordan.  I imagine we will see a lot of DeShawn Stevenson on Richard Hamilton, because he's the best off-ball defender on the team, but I might consider playing Mason a lot at the point to counter Chauncey Billups' size.  Daniels is tall enough to stop Billups, but I forsee Billups just dominating him in the post.  I'm not sure he'll be able to do that as effectively against Mason.

Up front: This was an interesting question and answer during today's Wizards chat:

20165er: Ivan - great work reporting on the Wiz. All of us die-hards truly appreciate it. Songaila's minutes decreased by about 17 percent from November to December. What would you say is the main reason for this?

Ivan Carter: He hasn't played all that well. One thing Eddie recently made a point of saying was that Darius was drifting to the perimeter and taking too many long jumpers instead of establishing position in the post and working from down there. I do think that the ankle he rolled against Minnesota on Dec. 11 and re-injured at Miami two days later has held him back some. He doesn't have much lift or burst to begin with so any leg injury is going to be an issue.


That means we'll probably see a lot of Andray Blatche and Jason Maxiell on the floor at the same time.  Maxiell is such a beast on the glass that we can't afford Songaila drifting away while Maxiell dominates inside.  That puts a lot of pressure on Blatche, and as we all know, his concentration isn't always there either.

Recent history: For some reason, the Wizards play the Pistons well.  They took three straight from Detroit two years ago, when the Pistons went 64-18.  Last year, they took two key January contests, when the two squads were battling for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.  One major reason, however, is Gilbert, because his ability to get into the lane was key in exploiting the one weakness of the Pistons' defense.  That should send a message to Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.  They can't settle for jumpers, because Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace are long enough to bother any shot.  

Butler's kryptonite: Tayshaun Prince usually plays Butler very well.  As mentioned above, Prince's length is good enough to bother Butler's stepback jumper, and Butler hasn't been able to drive on him either.  On the other end, Prince abused Butler on backdowns, much like Gerald Wallace does when the Bobcats come to town.  This will be a good test to track Caron's improvement.  He has to drive on Prince and not get frustrated if a couple jumpers don't go down.

Where being in attendance happens: I'm going to the VC with a bunch of friends for college night.  Look for the dude in the Arenas/Obama T-shirt.

This is an open game thread, so talk about passing a key test here.

GO WIZARDS!

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