If the past few games were must-win affairs, than tonight is unequivocally so.
The Pistons are (nearly) as bad as the Knicks, and the Wolves simply can’t afford to drop any more games that they should win easily on paper. Detroit has lost five of their last six contests, with the only win coming against the Kicks, of course.
And get this — the Pistons haven’t won a road game since January 18 in Dallas. That’s insane. Overall this season away from The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit is just 10-17. In the first meeting between the two teams back on December 10, Kevin Love dropped 26 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists in an easy 121-94 victory.
Brandon Jennings (20 points on 8 of 16 shooting, 7 assists) was the only true offensive threat for the Pistons in that game, but Ricky Rubio had a good performance too, putting up 15 points and 9 assists while forcing Jennings into an unsightly 6 turnovers on the night.
Andre Drummond was uncharacteristically quiet back in December against Minnesota, scoring just 8 points and pulling down only 8 rebounds in 29 minutes of playing time. It would be unfortunate to assume a repeat of that performance in Minneapolis on Friday night, so the Wolves will likely need to contend with a more active version of the Pistons near-All-Star.
There isn’t much else to worry about on the Pistons roster, short of Greg Monroe. Hopefully his impact on tonight’s game will be much lower than that of Tyson Chandler on Wednesday night, and that Nikola Pekovic will make the most of his still-limited minutes in combating Monroe and potentially getting him into foul trouble.
The Josh Smith match-up for the Wolves is intriguing, as Love will likely check Drummond on defense. Dante Cunningham is the clear choice to guard Smith, but it will probably be Corey Brewer from the opening tap. This should work out okay, as Smith will elect to settle for too many outside jumpers, rather than take Brewer/Cunningham to the basket with ease to set up his jumper, like Anthony did on Wednesday.
The Wolves should generally allow Smith and Jennings to fire away from mid-range and concentrate on crowding the paint and crashing the glass to keep Drummond and Monroe from finding too much success. Hopefully Gorgui Dieng and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will see some time tonight to throw some additional big bodies (and personal fouls) at the Pistons’ twin towers. Keep in mind that Drummond is a 41.2% free throw shooter. Love and Co. may need to fight against their nature and take some fouls if they struggle on the boards.
The game tips at 7:00 p.m. CT. We’ll meet back here afterwards with some (positive, hopefully) commentary.