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Open Thread: Detroit Pistons vs. Washington Wizards, Regular Season Game 9

The Essentials:

Pistons (4-4) vs. Wizards (2-6)
7:00 p.m.
Verizon Center
Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Notable very early Pistons numbers this season

13th in expected winning percentage (.595)
30th in pace (87.1 possessions per game)
18th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (105.8)
12th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (102.9)

Notable Pistons numbers last season

17th in expected winning percentage (.482)
29th in pace (86.7 possessions per game)
21st in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (107.4)
16th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (108)

Pre-game links

Motown String Music, SB Nation's Detroit Pistons blog
Piston Powered, Detroit Pistons blog
Detroit Bad Boys
Need4Sheed, Detroit Pistons fan site
Motown String Music season preview
Need4Sheed season preview
The Dagger Report featuring Brian Packey from Motown String Music
Michael Lee: The Other Side, Pistons
GameDay Pistons

Tonight's Projected Starters
Pistons vs. Wizards
Rodney Stuckey
PG Gilbert Arenas
Ben Gordon
SG Mike Miller
Jonas Jerebko
SF Caron Butler
Charlie Villanueva
PF Andray Blatche
Ben Wallace
C Brendan Haywood

First, an injury update:

As noted below, Michael Lee tweeted that Mike Miller is probably, Antawn Jamison is a game-time decision, but doubtful because he's sick (not necessarily because of his shoulder) and Randy Foye is out with his ankle injury. Dave Johnson was a little more optimistic about Jamison, simply saying he is a game-time decision. As soon as I find out for sure, I will let you all know.

UPDATE: Miller's playing. Jamison is still sick (long sickness!) and won't play. Evidently, it's the sickness that's keeping him out, not the shoulder. Foye's injured as well.

Just getting Miller back is very important, as the Wizards really missed his facilitating on offense while he was injured. But I have two concerns about Miller's return tonight. One is ... is he actually healthy or just itching to come back? Here's what Mike Jones wrote about Miller on Friday.

Miller came off the court with his clothes rather damp from having worked up a good sweat and said that he's hopefully to play on Saturday. But it was pretty obvious that his sprained left shoulder is still in a good deal of pain.

"I feel alright," he said when asked how he felt after practice.

"It'll be playable," Miller added with a smile.


"I’m good," came his reply.

When asked why rush back rather than take an extra game off and be ready Wednesday vs. Cleveland, Miller said, "We need a win. I’ll be all right. I'm not going to put myself in any jeopardy, I'll be fine."

"I was a little tired today, but that was to be expected. I’ll be fine," Miller said, trying his best to assure the questioning group of reporters. "I told Flip that I’ll be ready to play, if he feels I’m hurting the team, take me out. If not, I’ll be ready to play. My job is to play basketball. if they pay me to play basketball, that’s what they should expect, they should expect me to go out there and play. Until they tell me not to play I’m going to do it"

If you remember, it was Miller's insistence on playing through pain against Miami that caused his shoulder injury to worsen in the first place. It's still just game nine, so there's no need to risk significant injury down the road.

The other thing that concerns me is the matchup. Detroit lives and dies with its small guards -- Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Will Bynum off the bench. They're missing Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, two guys closer to Miller in size. With those guys out, who can Miller guard? Not having Foye is really going to hurt, because the Wizards could counter Detroit's speed by putting Foye in the game at shooting guard. Not anymore, though.

Detroit sometimes like to even run out a super small lineup by playing their three small guys together, and that lineup has been very successful. When they do that, it's going to be very difficult for the Wizards and Miller to match up. I'd expect new addition Earl Boykins to receive a lot of time simply for that reason. He's literally the only small guard the Wizards have left other than Gilbert Arenas.

If Jamison plays, I expect the Wizards to dominate the forward matchups. The flip side of Detroit's insistence on playing small is that they could have trouble guarding post-up plays. This is a good game for Caron Butler to break out of his slump. He might have a guy like Stuckey on him for long stretches, and while Stuckey is strong, I'd think Butler could take him down into the post.

Other keys:

  • Contain dribble penetration in the halfcourt. Detroit is a very heavy isolation-type team, because their guards are all very quick, but not great at creating for others. They do like to run screen-and-roll between Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, but normally Gordon's driving to score. Keeping them in front of you and contesting jumpers is probably the best way to go. Also, if Ben Wallace comes to set the screen, always trap the ball-handler, because Wallace can't do anything once he catches the ball.
    Pick up the pace. Detroit's the slowest-paced team in the league this year and can really hurt you when they're allowed to get into a rhythm in the halfcourt, like they did against Charlotte.
  • Win the center battle. Brendan Haywood can't let Ben Wallace dominate inside like he has in several games this year.

I'll be there in Section 104, per usual.