This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Detroit Pistons who have lost three straight; 4 of their last 5 and are now searching for an identity after losing Brandon Jennings for the season.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this New Orleans team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Tim Thielke at pistonpowered.com, as Tim will answer Fo’ questions on his Pistons from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight…
1) Sixers to Score 90+ — Stan Van Gundy led teams typically have a solid defensive reputation and that has been true for the Pistons in the last month or two. It was especially true during their recent surge during which they gave up only 95.9 ppg. and racked up an 11-3 record. However, of late the Pistons defense has been, shall we say, Sixer-ish. In the last four games, Detroit’s opponents have scored an average of 109.0 points a night. Included in that stretch is a 118-spot by the Magic (128-118 win for DET) and a 114 point outburst by Toronto (114-110 loss by DET). Despite having ills on offense that are too numerous to list here, I am expecting the 76ers to score early and often in this one against a defense that is not playing well and make sure that the Pappa John’s discount promo is in full effect on Thursday.
2) A Motivated Nerlens Noel — Noel should be embarrassed by his effort against the Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Obviously Davis has more basketball skills than Noel at this point in their lives, so I am not shocked that Davis took Noel to the learning tree. But I what really bothered me about Noel’s performance the other night was his lack of energy and hustle. He looked flat and a bit star struck against the NOP. So, I am looking for an extremely motivated #4 to come out tonight, play hard in front of the home crowd, and put up more than solid numbers vs. the Pistons.
3) Pistons vs. the Schedule — Tonight will mark the Pistons fourth game in five days. They dropped a tight contest last night at home to the surging Cleveland Cavaliers and then jumped on a flight to Philadelphia. Also of note is that the Pistons have two days off after tonight’s game before they host the Houston Rockets on Saturday. Thus I will be interested to see if early on these weary Pistons are focused on this game tonight or if they are dreaming of two much needed days off. I am hoping SVG’s crew is unfocused and that the 76ers can take advantage of a tired, uninterested and Jennings-less Pistons team in order to keep this game competitive for most of the night.
4) Brown to Get Covington Going — In his last 3 games Robert Covington is shooting 28% from the field (9-32). With MCW out (illness) against the Pelicans the night got especially rough for Robert. In that game, two things happened 1) The Pels defense was focused on Covington and (2) without MCW, Cov had no one to set him up and we rediscovered that Cov struggles to create his own shot. The result was a 2-11 shooting night (0-4 from three) vs. NOP. Tonight I want to witness Brown design a few new wrinkles to get Cov going early and get #33 some confidence. Cov splashing home numerous threes is the only chance the Sixers have of making this a closely contested game and breaking 90 points tonight.
And now…the Q&A with Tim Thielke at pistonpowered.com:
Philadunkia: Prior to any possible trade happening, how will SVG and the Pistons make up for the loss of Brandon Jennings?
Tim Thielke at pistonpowered.com: In the two games Jennings has missed so far, D.J. Augustin has been magnificent. There’s no way he keeps averaging 27 points and 8.5 assists, let alone his 57/53/100 splits; but Augustin could be a plenty serviceable fill-in. The problem is that the Pistons have zero other reliable PG options on the team.
Dinwiddie might be decent, but he has played just 119 minutes this season. He has shown some good playmaking and ball-handling abilities, but his shooting and defense have been appalling. And the Pistons are an unusual team in that none of their wings offer much by way of ball-handling either. So, Detroit will lean heavily on Augustin and hope that if he has an off-night, gets hurt, or has foul trouble, Dinwiddie is able to perform. And if that doesn’t work for any given game, they’ll probably just lose. But I’d be fascinated to see who ends up playing the de facto point guard role.
Philadunkia: If you are the GM of the Pistons, who would target to address the hole in the Pistons back-court? Any interest in this trade: MCW for Dinwiddie & Datome; plus the Pistons 1st round pick in 2015 (top 8 protected).
Tim Thielke at pistonpowered.com: The Pistons aren’t contenders this year. If they can fix their point guard situation, they might have an outside shot at a low playoff berth. I wouldn’t mortgage any future for a shot at that. And Stan Van Gundy has expressed a similar sentiment, “We want to give ourselves every chance, so we want to get some help, but we won’t mortgage anything in terms of the future. We’re not going to go out and give away assets, picks or anything like that. No, we’re not gonna do that.”
So no, I have no interest in that trade at all. No offense, but I don’t really think Carter-Williams is all that great. His steals, rebounds, and assists are nice. But 44% true shooting and a 20% turnover rate are brutal. Also, every team really needs three guys who can potentially play the point. So I wouldn’t be looking to get rid of Dinwiddie.
Philadunkia: The Pistons are without Jennings and on the second night of a home-then-road back to back set. So what kind of game can we expect from your Detroit squad tonight?
Tim Thielke at pistonpowered.com: It could be a rough outing. But Van Gundy has these Pistons playing hard. And they were very competitive in their last two, in spite of losing to significantly more talented Toronto and Cleveland squads. If they aren’t too drained, this may come as a big opportunity for them to end their skid against a weak opponent. So I would still consider Detroit a significant favorite in this game. And that could be good news for the Sixers, who are in a very tight race to the bottom with the Knicks and Timberwolves.
Personally, I’m excited regardless of the outcome because as a Philadelphia inhabitant, this is a rare opportunity to actually watch the Pistons play live.
Philadunkia: Throughout his coaching career there seems to have been no grey area when it comes to Stan Van Gundy. Where do you stand on the coaching job he has done this year?
Tim Thielke at pistonpowerd: Let me offer you some gray area. He’s done a marvelous job coaching the Pistons since getting rid of Josh Smith. But he racked up an abysmal 5-23 record with Smith. That’s worse than John Loyer’s 8-24 last year and much worse than Mo Cheeks’ 21-29. And those two were a pair of very underwhelming coaches who were also dealing with the weirdness of the Drummond/Monroe/Smith rotation.
But if Smith was just messing up all of Van Gundy’s coaching and was really the reason he was doing so much more poorly for the first third of the season, why was he getting 32 minutes per game? Stan Van Gundy was either failing in terms of his schemes or in terms of his rotations, possibly both. Yet I’m delighted to have him coaching the Pistons because he offers upside in that position (see their 12-3 rampage before Jennings went down).
Thanks to Tim for his time and answers.
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