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Clippers, Pistons are going to engage in some Motor City Madness

After their first meeting ended in a comeback win for the Los Angeles Clippers, the two teams will meet with the Detroit Pistons as the home team this time. This will be the final meeting of the year between the two sides, so expect fireworks.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Even though they rank a respectable 21st overall in Offensive Efficiency, it wouldn’t be entirely out of line to say that the Detroit Pistons have offensive problems. They struggle to make mid-range jumpers, connecting on just 36.6 percent of them this season – a mark that ranks 25th in the league. And, despite trying to space the floor with capable shooters, only 38.5 percent of Detroit’s three point attempts are uncontested. This has led the Pistons to ranking just 24th in Effective Field Goal Percentage. There’s no doubt that Stan Van Gundy wishes it was higher. Their offense is led by point guard Reggie Jackson, and it’s helped out a lot by center Andre Drummond. Both play an integral part in their offensive ecosystem.

Jackson leads the team in scoring, averaging 19.4 points per game. He also chips in with 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals on 43.3 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. Jackson leads the league in possessions used as the pick-and-roll ball-handler with 307. Nearly 60 percent of Jackson’s offense is derived from pick-and-roll action, so the Clippers will need to key in on that. Jackson’s only averaging 0.78 points per possession as the ball-handler, but he can get to the rim and finish if you attack too hard on the screen. The best way to defend him would be to go underneath the screen and force him to shoot jumpers. Jackson is shooting just 25.6 percent from 16-to-24 feet this season, and also just 31.2 percent overall in the mid-range area. Avoid giving him threes and layups. That’s the gameplan.

Drummond is the NBA’s leading rebounder, averaging 16.4 boards per game. He’s also pouring in 17.6 points per game. The main issue for Drummond is that he’s not a capable offensive player outside of offensive rebound putbacks or being the roll man on pick-and-rolls. Drummond ranks third in the NBA in post-up possessions, but tops in the league in post touches. In 137 post-up possessions, the former Connecticut product is averaging just 0.72 points per possession, and he’s shooting just 40.2 percent. Neither is a good number. However, as a roll man he’s averaging 1.15 points per possession. And, lastly, on putbacks he’s averaging 1.17. If Los Angeles can limit Detroit’s pick-and-roll game by routinely going under screens, thus allowing more help on Drummond rolls, then they could help stop what is a deadly weapon for Detroit. If the Pistons try to post Drummond up, then it might be a long day for the home team.

Opposition's Blog: Detroit Bad Boys

The rest of the Pistons do struggle when it comes to offense – at least in some capacity. Marcus Morris has been decent for them, averaging 14.7 points and 5.8 rebounds on 41.9 percent from the field, but he’s shooting just 33.0 percent from beyond the arc. He’s not exactly spacing the floor in the ways they thought he would. Morris is still a quality mid-range player, shooting 42.9 percent in the mid-range and 42.4 percent from 16-to-24 feet, but he’s simply not making threes. He’s just 9-of-33 from corner spots, and the only zone he’s even decent from is the right wing where he’s shooting 58.3 percent. As long as the Clippers keep him away from that spot, they should be fine. If the game comes down to Morris hitting an exorbitant amount of jumpers then you’d live with that kind of day.

As for the others, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope isn’t the offensive player some people thought he would be when he came out of college, but he’s been a really good defensive player. KCP is averaging 13.2 points per game, but only shooting 28.9 percent from three. Ersan Ilyasova was brought in to space the floor, and he has. He’s averaging 11.0 points while shooting 39.8 percent from deep. Clippers will need to cover him. That’s where the good news for Detroit ends. Their bench is absolutely horrendous. In fact, they’re the worst bench in basketball due to their -13.7 NetRtg. They’re dead last in Offensive Rating (90.7), as well. Rookie Stanley Johnson might be a bright spot, though. He’s averaging 8.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, but shooting just 37.5 percent. He provides energy, defense, and toughness. If only the rest of their bench could do the same.

2015-16 NBA Regular Season
Los Angeles Clippers (14-10)

Detroit Pistons (14-11)
December 14, 2015 — 4:30 PM PT
Palace of Auburn Hills (Auburn Hills, Michigan)
Prime Ticket, FS Detroit, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Projected Starters
Chris Paul PG Reggie Jackson
J.J. Redick SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute SF Marcus Morris
Blake Griffin PF Ersan Ilyasova
DeAndre Jordan C Andre Drummond
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
99.22 (12th) Pace 98.05 (21st)
103.8 (7th) OffRtg 99.7 (21st)
101.1 (15th) DefRtg 99.1 (7th)
+2.7 (10th) NetRtg +0.6 (14th)
Injury Report
Brandon Jennings (Achilles); Jodie Meeks (Foot)

Despite looking sluggish and hopeless at some points, the Los Angeles Clippers are 7-2 in their last 9 games. In their last win, which was against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, the Clippers got good contributions from their Core Four players. Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick each had 21 points, Chris Paul had 15 points and 14 assists, and DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Those four will need to continue their ways if the team is to be successful against a Detroit squad that gave them some problems during the first meeting. However, it is best to remember that both Redick and Paul missed that game.

The strength of the Core Four is pretty apparent. It does not matter which small forward is in there with them – they’re still going to produce at a prodigious rate, for the most part. When Lance Stephenson has been in there with them, the group has a +17.9 Net Rating in 148 minutes. When it’s been Luc Mbah a Moute, the Net Rating has been +9.6 in 105 minutes. With Wesley Johnson, the group has produced a +20.4 Net Rating in 74 minutes. Even with Jamal Crawford in that role, it’s been a +16.8 Net Rating in 53 minutes. It really does not matter which one is in there. They’re all going to produce. For now, starting Mbah a Moute makes some sense in so far as he’s a solid defender and rebounder. But the spacing issues with him have bogged down the group, seeing as they only have a 104.6 Offensive Rating with him. However, when it’s Johnson in there the group jumps up to a 115.6 Offensive Rating. In fairness, Doc Rivers has done a solid job rotating Mbah a Moute and Johnson in there throughout the game to get them each some run. We’ll see if that continues.

Past Game Previews: 2015-16 Game Previews

Even though the team has gone 7-2 in their last 9 games, it’s not as if Blake Griffin has been sensational. His mid-range jumper is missing in action, seeing as how Griffin is shooting just 32.1 percent from 16-to-24 feet over that stretch. This is after he began the year shooting 48.2 percent from that range in the first 15 games. Maybe this is just a slump for him, or maybe this is simply the regression to the mean that some thought could happen. As it stands, Griffin is now shooting 41.5 percent from 16-to-24 feet, and the team needs him to start picking it up. Defenses are giving Griffin that shot over and over, so he needs to knock them down.

One thing this game does feature is a battle between the top two rebounders, at least in rebounds per game, in the entire league. Among players who chase after at least 30 percent of defensive rebounds, Andre Drummond (55.0 percent) ranks 5th in the entire league in Defensive Rebound Win Percentage, while DeAndre Jordan (49.0 percent) is 15th. In fact, Jordan doesn’t even lead his own team – that honor belongs to Blake Griffin (52.1 percent). Either way, this game features three of the best defensive rebounders in the NBA. Not to mention that all three rank in the Top 7 when it comes to Offensive Rebound Win Percentage. Among players who chase after 20 percent of the total rebounds, Drummond ranks 1st in Total Rebound Win Percentage. Meanwhile, Griffin (4th) and Jordan (5th) also rank in the top five. So, enjoy this meeting. It features three phenomenal rebounders.

If the Detroit bench is pretty bad, then the Clipper bench is not far behind. They’re looking for random sparks on most nights, but the spark provided against Brooklyn was delivered by Paul Pierce. He hit a couple threes, made a mid-range jumper, and generally looked okay. That’s a big step up from where he’s been this year. Jamal Crawford leads the bench in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game. If things are to go well for the Clippers on the last game of the road trip, the bench needs to defend their tails off, get to the rim, and not settle for just perimeter based offense. The bench lineup of Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Wesley Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Josh Smith has been pretty disastrous this season, compiling a -26.1 NetRtg in 64 minutes. Can’t let Detroit win the bench battle. The minutes that both benches are on the floor could certainly decide this one.