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Clippers-Pistons preview: Wounded in Detroit

The Clippers may have lost more than a game against the Pacers as three key players left Indianapolis banged up. No word on whether Collison (toe), Redick (knee) or Barnes (thumb) will play in Detroit.

2013/2014 NBA Regular Season

January 20th, 2014, 10:00 AM
Palace at Auburn Hills
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
10-7 East 15-11
18-7 West 2-12
18-3 Home 7-13
10-11 Road 10-10
9-10 .500+ 3-12
19-4 <.500 14-11
7-3 L10 3-7
6-2 noCP3 N/A
Probable Starters
Darren Collison? PG Brandon Jennings
J.J. Redick? SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Jared Dudley SF Josh Smith
Blake Griffin PF Greg Monroe
DeAndre Jordan C Andre Drummond
Advanced Stats
98.25 (7th of 30) Pace 97.15 (11th of 30)
106.8 (6th of 30) ORtg 101.5 (20th of 30)
101.0 (8th of 30) DRtg 104.8 (21st of 30)
Chris Paul (separated shoulder) out
J.J. Redick (bruised knee) ?

Darren Collison (toe) ?

Matt Barnes (thumb) ?

The Back Story (Clippers swept the season series last season 2-0):

Date Venue Final

12/17/12 Detroit Clippers 88, Pistons 76 Recap Box
03/10/13 Los Angeles Clippers 129, Pistons 97 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers played an almost unwinnable game against the Pacers on Saturday, a game for which I half-jokingly suggested they should rest their key players and take the loss. Of course Doc Rivers didn't do that (nor should he have really), the Clippers did lose -- and they then added injury to insult, when three key players were banged up by the hyper-physical Pacers. (And that's not including any ill-effects of the elbow David West threw at Blake Griffin's head, which earned West an ejection and a $15,00 fine.) Darren Collison strained a big toe, J.J. Redick bruised a knee, and Matt Barnes sprained a thumb in Indianopolis; all three continued to play, but the Clippers all three skipped practice on Sunday and there's no update on their status. The loss of either Collison or Redick would be very difficult, putting lots of pressure on Jamal Crawford to step in. If both of the guards are out, you could see a starting backcourt of Crawford and Willie Green or possibly 10-dayer Darius Morris and Crawford. Aside from that, everything's fine. The Clippers have been taking care of business against the weaker competition lately, even when Chris Paul has been out. The loss to the Pacers was inevitable, but a win here makes them 2-1 on the trip and sets them up well for the remainder. Blake Griffin has been a beast lately, and hopefully DeAndre Jordan will have something to prove against the well-hyped Andre Drummond. But if they end up short-handed, it could be as if they lost twice in Indiana.

The Antagonist:

The Pistons made a big splash this off-season. Of the unrestricted free-agents to change teams, Josh Smith signed the second biggest contract after Dwight Howard. They also executed a sign-and-trade for restricted free agent Brandon Jennings, another big signing. After having gotten talented big men in two of the last three drafts, the Pistons seemed to have an array of talent to really do some damage. Then again, when you've already got Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond playing close to the basket, that's not a good fit for Smith, who loves to play on the perimeter, but isn't very good at it. The Pistons were 13-14 a month ago and things were looking pretty good -- they then proceeded to lose eight of nine, including six in a row. They've righted the ship some in the last week, winning three of four, but overall this team appears to be some years and some pieces away from really competing. They really lack shooting, and should be better than they are on the defensive end.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The numbers don't lie. By offensive and defensive efficiency, the Clippers are a good team and the Pistons are a bad team. The Pistons, with a huge front line, have as much rim protection as any team in the league, but still they allow opponents to shoot and effective percentage of .515 against them, fifth worst in the league.
  • Set the Alarm clock. The Clippers frequently tip off weekend home games at 12:30 because of the crowded STAPLES Center calendar. The Raptors tend to favor 1 PM tips for Sunday games, maybe because they don't have an NFL team, maybe because they are trying to catch players early after a night at the Canadian Ballet. But you don't get these early tips that often, particularly in the Eastern time zone. But it's Martin Luther King's Birthday, the kids are out of school, and the Clippers will be playing at 10 AM Pacific time -- so I may have to set an alarm to catch the tip off. Oh, and Windsor's just across the bridge, so hopefully Doc didn't let the boys stay out last night.
  • Three games in 30 66 hours. Because of the early tip in Detroit coming a day after a back-to-back, the Clippers will be tipping three games in the course of 30 66 hours. If may not seem like a big difference, but three games in four days is tough enough without having the third one be a matinee.
  • Favorable numbers. The Pistons are not a good home team (7-13). They're terrible against teams with winning records (3-12). They're even worse against the Western Conference (2-12). The Clippers need to add to all of those futile records.
  • Drummond and Jordan. In the off-season, Jonathan Tjarks of SB Nation picked Andre Drummond as the third best player in 2017, behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Obviously, that's just one man's opinion for four years hence, but Drummond could possibly make his first All Star game this year, and is indeed a monster and Tjarks is far from the only NBA pundit raving about him. He's incredibly athletic for a player his size, he runs like a deer, he has long arms, he's a great rebounder, shoots a high-percentage (mostly on putbacks and dunks), blocks shots; his only real weakness is that he's a terrible free throw shooter. Sound familiar? Take a peak at their numbers side-by-side. DeAndre Jordan has been as good as or better than Drummond almost across the board. Essentially the only thing Drummond does better than Jordan is take more shots, but then again Drummond plays on a bad team. I haven't seen a lot of Drummond, but the more shots seem more or less like more shots -- I don't think he has a better post game than Jordan per se, which is to say neither has much post game. Obviously Drummond is younger than Jordan; but at 25, it's not as if DeAndre is old. If Detroit has a foundational player in Drummond, that I think you have to admit that the Clippers have one in Jordan as well.
  • Injuries. That Indiana game really could not have gone much worse. The Clippers needed to shoot well, and instead they couldn't make a thing, and happened to run into Paul George's best night in a month. To also have three key players hurt is a disaster. The Clippers just got Redick back, have been trying to get Barnes in form all season, and have Collison has their only experienced point guard behind the injured Chris Paul. Lost time from any of the three would be a major problem.
  • East Playoff picture. The Eastern conference, which has been weaker than ever overall this season, has settled into and interesting series of strata. There are two elite teams, the two time defending champion Heat and the NBA-best Pacers. Then there are four not-terrible teams, hanging around .500 (though they'd no doubt be below .500 if they were playing in the much-tougher West). And that's it. The rest of the conference has been dreadful (though the Nets are showing signs of waking up). There were reasonably high hopes for the Pistons heading into the season given there off-season acquisitions, and I suppose a playoff berth would be an accomplishment of sorts, but six games under .500 with a -3.3 point differential is hardly a good season. The East is so bad, that the Sixers (with the third worst record in basketball) are only four games behind the Pistons. Of course, the seventh or eighth seed in the East is just an invitation to be swept by the Heat or the Pacers in the first round -- you'd be much better off in the lottery.
  • Billups. As far as I know, Billups is healthy enough to play for the Pistons right now, but he has not gotten on the court in four of their last five games including the last three in a row. In fact, he wasn't even on the active roster on Saturday, though I'm not sure which is more humiliating, to be in a suit or to get a DNP-CD in the box score. Billups went to Detroit thinking he'd start -- which was of course his attitude when he joined the Clippers also. But having traded for Brandon Jennings and drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, with a team that has lots of young talent and could be very good down the road, who would you play if you were head coach Mo Cheeks?
  • 20 points per 36. The Clippers have four players averaging 20 points per 36 minutes this season (Griffin, Paul, Crawford and Redick). The Heat have three (guess who). No other team in the league has more than two. The Pistons don't have any. Unfortunately for the Clippers, they haven't had all four of their scorers healthy at the same time since November 27. No wonder I feel like we haven't seen this team at their best -- it's because we haven't.
  • Three point shooting. The Pistons shoot 31% from three point range, worst in the league. They are one of only two teams in the NBA who make fewer than a third of their threes (Philadelphia is the other one). Josh Smith is 37-152 from deep this season. Here's an idea Josh -- stop taking that shot!
  • Connections. Chauncey Billups, who has played a lot of places in his NBA career, had his best seasons in Detroit, winning an NBA Title and a Finals MVP. He is back with the Pistons for a curtain call after playing two injury-plagued seasons with the Clippers. Willie Green is a Detroit native who played his college ball at the University of Detroit (go Titans!). Jamal Crawford and Darius Morris both played down the road in Ann Arbor for Michigan in their college days.
  • Get the Detroit perspective at Detroit Bad Boys.
  • Shakespearean reference:

    Detested kite, thou liest!
    My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
    That all particulars of duty know
    And in the most exact regard support
    The worships of their name.- O most small fault,
    How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
    Which, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature
    From the fix'd place; drew from my heart all love
    And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
    Beat at this gate that let thy folly in [Strikes his head.]
    And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.

    It's been a bad week for Shakespeare. Maverick, knickerbocker and piston are all modern creations -- laker and pacer are just weird. I'm going with engine as an Elizabethan version of piston.