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Clippers-Pistons Preview: Two in a Row?

On the fifth game of a road trip, and their third game in four nights, the Clippers take on an underachieving Pistons squad. In their last game, the Clippers blew out the Charlotte Hornets, and will hope to do the same to Stan Van Gundy's struggling team.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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8-5

3-11
November 26, 2014, 7:30 PM
Palace at Auburn Hills
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
3-1 East 2-7
5-4 West 1-4
4-3 Home 2-4
4-2 Road 1-7
3-5 .500+ 1-7
5-0 .500- 2-4
6-4 L10 2-8
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG D.J. Augustin
J.J. Redick SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Reggie Bullock SF Josh Smith
Blake Griffin PF Greg Monroe
DeAndre Jordan C Andre Drummond
Advanced Stats (through games of 11/24)
96.1 (12th of 30) Pace 93.47 (24th of 30)
107.5 (5th of 30) ORtg 97.4 (28th of 30)
104.5 (17th of 30) DRtg 103.5 (14th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Matt Barnes (hamstring) out
Brandon Jennings (thumb) questionable
Chris Douglas-Roberts (Achilles) out
Jodie Meeks (back) out

The Back Story (Clippers swept the Pistons 2-0 last year)

Date Venue Final

01/20/14 Detroit Clippers 112, Pistons 103 Recap Box
03/22/14 Los Angeles Clippers 112, Pistons 103 Recap Box

Editor's Note: All statistics and notes were taken previously to the Pistons 98-86 loss to the Bucks on Tuesday night. Drummond and Monroe shot well, but everyone else was poor.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers bounced back from a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies by dominating the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night. Blake Griffin played his best game of the season, dominating Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller all evening as expected of him. Considering he had just come off a game where he got bullied by Zach Randolph, and has been relatively unimpressive all season, his strength of play was extremely appreciated. Chris Paul was terrific all game, but particularly down the stretch, helping to put away the pesky Hornets who had been able to hang in the low teens deficit for most of the 2nd half. Redick and Crawford made a combined 9 three pointers, another welcome sight considering the cold shooting that the Clips have seen most of the season. Now, the Clippers will hope to close out their long road trip strongly with a victory against the Pistons.

The Antagonist:

The Pistons came into this season with playoff aspirations, and while it is way too early to write them off, they have a long hill to climb even in the weaker Eastern Conference. The Pistons brought back just about their entire roster from last year of any importance and then added on some interesting pieces. Unfortunately Jodie Meeks, who was supposed to be one of their starting wings, has been out the entire season. He was very good for the Lakers last year, and his consistent outside shooting is missed in providing spacing for Monroe and Drummond. Jennings has actually been pretty good this season, but that mostly has to do with his terrible shots falling rather than any real change in play. He is questionable to play, and DJ Augustin is basically a lesser version of him. Drummond has been the biggest disappointment, being unable to convert anywhere near the percentages he put up in his first two seasons. Together with the horribleness of Josh Smith, they have combined to create one of the worst offenses so far in the NBA. While Drummond should improve, the Pistons just don't have many above average offensive players on their roster.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. As mentioned above, the Pistons have the third worst offense in the NBA, and play at an extremely slow pace. This is partially because they rely heavily on their big men and post ups for Monroe, Drummond, and Smith. Their lack of outside shooting and creators off the dribble makes them predictable and ineffective. The Clippers, on the other hand, have moved up to 5th on offense, and should continue rising through the ranks as they start to click. Both teams are mediocre defensively, so the Clippers should be able to get points on the Pistons. The only thing to be wary of is the shot blocking potential of Drummond.
  • Health update. The Clippers are short on their already poor wing rotation with Matt Barnes and CDR out, but should be able to scrape by using more of Jamal Crawford. They are fortunate in that the Pistons weakest position is on the wings as well, though Josh Smith might be able to punish the Clippers wings if he has a mind to.
  • Butler. Former Clipper Caron Butler signed on with the Pistons as a free agent to provide mentorship and outside shooting. Due to injuries to Meeks and Cartier Martin, Butler has been pressed into more service than he deserves as this point in his career, playing exactly 27 minutes a game. He is averaging just 8 points and 4.5 rebounds, and while his efficiency isn't awful, his defense remains as bad as it was when he was on the Clippers.
  • Three point shooting. The Pistons shoot 34% from the three point line, which is around the NBA average the past few seasons, but are only shooting 41% from the floor as a whole, which is absolutely awful. This is probably due to the amount of midrange shots they take: Monroe, Smith, and Jennings are all offenders.
  • The Long Road: The Clippers are on the 6th game of a 7 game road trip, and are playing their third game in four nights. Hopefully the end of this trip will inspire the Clippers rather than depress them, and the day off will give them time to recuperate.
  • Connections. Caron Butler played on the Clippers for two seasons as the starting small forward, and was considered a big step forward in the Clippers respectability when he was acquired back in 2011. Jamal Crawford played at Michigan in college, just an hour down the road from Detroit. Clippers assistant coach Lawrence Frank was head coach of the Pistons from 2011-2013 and was fired after compiling a 54-94 record. Nobody on the Clippers has ever played for the Pistons, and nobody but Caron on the Pistons has played for the Clippers. Because the Pistons roster is so young, none of them have even been on the same team as anyone on the Clippers roster.
  • Balanced Scoring: The Pistons have 6 players averaging between 9 and 16 points per game, with all of their usual starters plus Augustin included in this range. They don't have anyone above 16, and nobody else in the main rotation averages below 6. Everyone is kind of a threat to score, but they don't have a consistent go-to player. This means that a different player could go off every game, but they have no reliable fall back option to rely on.
  • Get the Detroit perspective at Detroit Bad Boys.
  • Wikipedia Entry: Walter Piston. Walter Piston was an American classical music composer who lived from 1894-1976. He was a professor of music as Harvard University, and counted Leonard Bernstein, Leroy Anderson, and Elliot Carter among his students. Born in Maine, Piston was of Italian descent through his father's side. His desk and library are on display at the Boston Public Library in the Piston room.