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Pistons-Clippers Preview: November Doldrums Once More

After a promising but shaky start to the year, the Clippers added real ailments to their existing woes, and now face the daunting prospect of losing their fifth game in six goes.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 NBA Regular Season
Detroit Pistons (5-3)

Los Angeles Clippers (5-4)
November 14, 2015 — 12:30 PM PST
STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, CA
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
5-3 Record 5-4
2-1 East 0-0
3-2 West 5-4
1-1 Division 3-2
2-1 Home 4-1
3-2 Road 1-3
3-2 .500+ 2-3
2-1 .500– 3-1
0-0 OT 0-0
5-3 L10 5-4
Projected Starters
Reggie Jackson PG Pablo Prigioni
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope SG Austin Rivers
Marcus Morris SF Lance Stephenson
Ersan Ilyasova PF Blake Griffin
Andre Drummond C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('14-'15)
98.1 (22nd) Pace 101.5 (8th)
98.5 (24th) OffRtg 104.6 (5th)
97.7 (7th) DefRtg 103.0 (20th)
+0.8 (14th) NetRtg +1.6 (11th)
Injury Report
Jodie Meeks (Foot) — OUT Chris Paul (Hamstring) — Doubtful
Brandon Jennings (Achilles) — OUT J.J. Redick (Back) — OUT

Rise and Shine: Welcome to our first matinee game of the year! You might have to plan your brunch before tipoff (or your afternoon siesta, if you're a good EST man like me). No word yet if the Clippers plan to wear their black alternates again, as they did last Saturday against Houston, or if those jerseys will be reserved only for the Saturday evening tilts.

Burying the Lede: So the Clippers started 4-0. They're now 5-4. A little arithmetic tells us that they've now lost four out of their last five games, including the last two. Doc Rivers' Clippers were known for never losing more than two games in a row — until a four-game losing streak last February (also coming with J.J. Redick sidelined)... and the Start Josh Smith Debacle. So it looks like that magic's no longer protecting the Clippers. And this game was already very loseable even before the injury bug struck.

Backcourt of Legend: For the second straight game, Austin Rivers and Pablo Prigioni take the reins from one of the best starting backcourts in the league (Chris Paul hasn't been officially ruled out, but it seems highly unlikely he plays today, with four rest days following). Once again, their opposition is no pushover. Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope form an excellent duo averaging 37 points a game. Jackson is an excellent offensive point guard with the capability to go off for huge games (scoring 26 in the fourth quarter a few nights ago in Portland), and Caldwell-Pope is a young SG really coming into his own this year (his defense on Steph Curry was praised by a number of Warriors observers as some of the best effort on Curry all year long). We'll need Doogie on his A game today, and maybe then some.

Board Executives: No one in the NBA has come close in the last two years to the dominance DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond have shown on the boards. The two big men are among the most athletic ever to play at their position, and both are prototypical modern NBA big men (Drummond on the deluxe track, with superstar promise). While DeAndre hasn't quite as good as he can be in the early going this year, Drummond's taken the leap, benefiting from a roster that shows the unquestionable touch of Coach Stan Van Gundy. Counting stats only tell you so much, but averaging a 19-19 in the modern NBA is monstrous by any standard. Seven of those 19 a game come on the offensive end, where Drummond and Detroit could really exploit what's been a glaring weakness of the Clippers' (mostly with the reserves). Jordan's had some poor outings recently, but winning his matchup today would go a long way towards breaking the losing streak.

Advantage... Bench? The Clippers bench has shown some promise (mostly in the second halves of games), but they've also been outmatched by many opponents so far. Today's the rare matchup where they should be unquestionably favored, as the Pistons bench is a huge thorn in Detroit's side. Aron Baynes has the potential to hurt the undersized Clippers bench on the boards, and Stanley Johnson has been a dynamic and promising rookie, but the Clippers still hold the edge in this department (especially if Jamal Crawford has rediscovered his shot, as he seemed to Thursday night in Phoenix).

Matchup of the game: Reggie Bullock v. Josh Smith. Both looking for revenge (not necessarily on each other), both capable of better than they've been so far this season. Both having made fans on the opposing team cry in the past. This is the fulcrum on which the game will tip. This will be basketball at its finest.

Don't Worry, Be Happy: The Clippers didn't look so great last year either at this point. Many good teams haven't looked good in the first ten games of the season, before taking off afterwards. Of course there's plenty of areas of concern, but the Clippers' track record hasn't been a bad one in recent years. As of now, there's not too much to suggest that the team can't overcome some of its issues sooner or later and ensconce itself once more firmly in the elite tier.

Prediction: Pistons 104, Clippers 99