The Pistons are going to lose this game.
It’s hard to write a team off completely, but we’re at a point in the season where the Pistons are too banged up and, frankly, apathetic to compete with a team fighting to keep home-court advantage like the Clippers. Speaking of home-court advantage, Los Angeles have won 24 games at the STAPLES Center to only seven losses, which stands in stark contrast to Detroit’s dismal 8-21 record on the road.
Momentum is not on the Pistons’ side, either. They’ve won only two of their last ten, with a point differential approaching double digits in that span. The Clippers, meanwhile, have gone a solid 7-3 in their last ten, but remain locked in a dogfight for the West’s third seed with the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets.
To make matters worse, Detroit’s only positional advantage is at center, where Greg Monroe edges out DeAndre Jordan. The Pistons are severely outmatched everywhere else on the court. Jose Calderon has been playing extremely well, but Chris Paul is a top five player and the NBA’s best guard. The trio of Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, and Chauncey Billups easily trumps Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, and Will Bynum. The gap between Blake Griffin — who’s quietly ascending to top 10-15 status despite decreased surface numbers — and Jason Maxiell is wider than the space Griffin covered in his dunk over Timofey Mozgov, and L.A.’s stable of wings fit together much more cohesively than the Pistons’ undermanned and inexperienced rotation.
Scoring should be particularly tough for the Pistons, who have seen their offensive efficiency slide to 22nd, which will be exacerbated by facing the Clippers’ seventh ranked defense. Los Angeles defends the perimeter extremely well, primarily thanks to the additions of Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, and Lamar Odom in the off-season. Odom, in particular, helps the Clippers lock opponents down when he sees the court. More than making up for his offensive inefficiency, Odom’s elite defensive rebounding and isolation defense — he’s fourth in Synergy Sports’ defensive rankings for that category — help Los Angeles allow just 97 points per 100 possessions when he sees the floor. For some context, the Indiana Pacers, who lead the NBA in defensive efficiency, allow 98.6 points per 100 possessions. Pair that with Detroit’s lack of bench scoring and you get a pretty toxic combination.
It’s unfortunate that optimism for Detroit fans at this point peaks at not getting embarrassed, but that’s the way things have gone since Andre Drummond went down. This might not be the game to watch, unless you want to focus on specific elements — like the development of Khris Middleton, or Jose Calderon’s Joe Camel-smooth game — and ignore the score. It’s best to look for silver linings at this point, because we’ll need them to make it to draft season.